The team after heavy losses to defending champions Australian Jillaroos (4-58) and former champions New Zealand Kiwi Ferns (0-76) last week, were written off by many ahead of their match against the third best in the world, England.
But the Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate-skippered side pulled probably the biggest upset in the tournament after shocking the Lionesses with a superb 22-16 win, scoring the winning try in the final seconds.
The national side burst into a 16-0 lead at the break with tries to Beniamina Koiatu, Katelyn Arona and Cecelia Strickland.
England bounced back to level the score with tries of their own to Emma Slowe, Amy Hardcastle and Kayleigh Bulman in the second spell.
But the Cook Islands maintained the pressure and a brilliant piece of work orchestrated by skipper Ngata-Aerengamate saw her sister Te Amohaere Ngata-Aerengamate cross the try line for the historic World Cup win.
Cook Islands Rugby League (CIRL) president Charles Carlson said the win would boost the development of the game in the country.
“Women’s rugby league is big in New Zealand and Australia and this is certainly a huge boost for our Cook Islands women in rugby league,” Carlson said.
“Certainly learnt some harsh lessons after getting flogged by the current world champs Australian Jillaroos and former world champs New Zealand Kiwi Ferns.
“To win over the third top nation in the world, the England Lioness, was an awesome achievement for our little nation.
“So we are very blessed with the outcome and we can only build on this as we move forward.”
Carlson said the win also proved their critics, who doubted the ability of the team, wrong.
“I think it has become a joke where Cook Islands always win the trophy for best dressed and the best entertainers at any international sporting event,” he said.
“While we didn’t win a trophy, we have proven we Cook Islanders can also be the best on the field.
“This is considering the fact that New Zealand, Australia and England been playing each other regularly for decades and our ladies just got together four days before playing their first game against Australia.”
Carlson said the CIRL have their Tri-Series every two years and they were looking at introducing the league Nines for women into the Tri-series to kick start a women’s league in the Cook Islands.
Meanwhile the win against England was not enough to earn the Moana a place in the World Cup semi-finals.