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Tuesday 21 November 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in League, Pacific Games 2023, Sports


Kiria-Ratu stars for Cook Islands
Cook Islands prevailed 18-8 in a thrilling encounter against Solomon Islands. CISNOC/2311209

Titans playmaker Chantay Kiria-Ratu led Cook Islands to the top of the points table as Fiji’s men’s and women’s teams suffered shock losses on the opening day of the Pacific Games Rugby League 9s in Honiara on Sunday (Cook Islands time).

Fiji claimed gold in both events at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa but the Bulikula were beaten by Tonga and the Bati went down to Samoa.

With Kiria-Ratu calling the shots, Cook Islands Moana won their opening three matches 36-0 against Solomon Islands, 28-6 against Vanuatu and 20-4 against Samoa. Last night they played Fiji and Tonga.

The teenage star, who helped Gold Coast to a historic grand final in her debut NRLW season, scored two tries and threw the final pass for her side’s other two tries against Samoa.

Captained by 2023 IRL Golden Boot Toru Arakua, the Cook Islands team includes nine members of the squad which last month travelled to Papua New Guinea for the Pacific Championships.

The Fiji squad also boasts players involved in the Pacific Championships Test against Samoa but the Bulikula were stunned by Tonga, who 10-4 at half-time and hung on to win 14-8.

Vanuatu was the other headline of the women’s competition, making their international rugby league debut and the first appearance by a Vanuatu rugby league team at a Pacific Games.

Although they lost to Tonga 16-0, Cook Islands 28-6 and Fiji 56-0, captain Jaimeen Kenni said they were delighted to have scored a try.

“It’s the first one but it’s not the last one. There’ll be more to come, and I think it’s great to get a taste of that,” she told the Pacific Games News Service

Kenni added: “I think rugby league is going forward in Vanuatu. I hope the little girls out there who are watching us know that they can also come out here and play against the Tongans, the Cook Islands, and also feel like they can be part of it.

“Learning how fast rugby league 9s is, we’re going to go back and continue growing the sport but all in all, we had a pretty good run out there today and thank you to Solomon Islands so much for having us. It’s history for us too.”

In other notable women’s results, Samoa beat Solomon Islands 20-8.

In the men’s competition, Cook Islands prevailed 18-8 in a thrilling encounter against Solomon Islands.

The hosts struck first in the second half, but Cook Islands responded with a well-executed play, courtesy of Malachi Morgan. In the final minutes, Daniel Toa was able to break through, with Ephraim Morgan securing the victory.

Cook Islands captain Adam Tangata said: “Rugby League 9s is a very fast game. Both teams play with a lot of passion and a lot of enthusiasm, and you can tell the crowd is getting behind it. You can see the big hits, the big runs and it’s good for the Pacific Games, a good spectacle.

“Fair play to the Solomon Islands boys, they play with a lot of pride at their home field. And they show their people that they are a force to be reckoned with.”

Cook Islands men had a tough day two last night with matches against powerhouses Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.

Fiji faced off against Tonga in a game that showed Fiji’s strength and dominance in the 9s code from the kick-off to the final whistle, including a spectacular try by Ratu Josua Rokonavutoro.

Fiji’s relentless pressure and clinical abilities were evident throughout the second period and their commanding 20-0 win underlined the seamless play of the Bati.

However, after leading 12-8 at halftime in their Round 2 clash against Samoa, Fiji were unable to hold on and lost 18-12 in one of the upsets of the tournament.

Solomon Islands had earlier almost sprung an even bigger upset against Tonga after a spirited second-half comeback but went down 14-12.

  • Brad Walter/