Cook Islands players celebrate their gold medal win. Charlie Ando Bitikolo/Pacific Games News Service/23112327
Titans star Chantay Kiria-Ratu described standing on the podium with a gold medal as an unmatchable feeling after helping Cook Islands to victory in the Pacific Games women’s Rugby League 9s final.
and her Cook Islands teammates avenged their only loss of the three-day
tournament, against Tonga, with a 16-8 victory when the two nations met again
in the gold medal match on Wednesday night (local time).
Islands took an early lead through captain Toru Arakua and led 8-0 at the
second half saw Tonga make a comeback, with former Kiwi Ferns back Lavinia
Tauhalaliku breaking through the Cook Islands defence to score a try.
Cook Islands responded with a team effort, leading to Arakua’s second try.
Tonga fought hard, with Mele Fotu-Moala scoring again, but Cook Islands held
opportunities to win medals in the sport of rugby league being rare, Kiria-Ratu
was overawed by the experience.
lost for words, to be honest. It’s super exciting for our nation and the people
back home. We all wanted to go out there and do them proud, and we did
that," Kiria-Ratu told the Pacific Games News Service.
revealed that a disrupted build-up to the tournament had left little time for
their four Cook Islands-based players to gel with those coming from Australia
and New Zealand, making the win all the more satisfying.
has been such a journey with the girls. There were a few who got caught up in
delayed flights and that disturbed us, we only got to do one training run
altogether and two players arrived late, but the connection we’ve built helped
us to be where we are today.”
silver was an extraordinary triumph for debutantes Tonga, who went through the
pool matches unbeaten.
a squad featuring 10 out of 15 players based in the island nation - and the
others resident in New Zealand and Australia - Tonga were the surprise package
of the tournament.
captain Ana Ngahe told the Pacific Games News Service that claiming silver was
a remarkable achievement, given the lack of experienced players in the team.
has been such an honour and we are so overwhelmed, given that it is our first
time playing rugby league [internationally]," she said.
girls did well despite their inexperience. We are so grateful we have the
privilege to represent our country.”
a thrilling showdown for women’s bronze, reigning champions Fiji faced off
were relieved to claim a medal after triumphing 4-0, given they fielded an
almost entirely different team to their gold medal-winning side of 2019.
the men’s competition, reigning champions Fiji had to settle for silver,
suffering an 8-0 loss to Samoa in the gold medal match.
faced a resilient Samoan defence, and despite early attempts, their passing
game struggled. Samoa capitalised on opportunities, working their way deep into
Fijian territory and scoring the first try. Although Fiji had a disallowed try,
Samoa held a 4-0 lead at halftime.
second half saw both teams giving their all, with a penalty for Samoa leading
to an impressive try by Kyran Tanuvasa. Despite Fiji’s determined efforts,
Samoa’s defence held firm.
a physical men’s bronze medal match, Cook Islands defeated Tonga 16-6 in a
dominant performance, with tries from Malachi Morgan, Adyn Anguna and
Islands captain Adam Tangata told the Pacific Games News Service: “Credit to
the boys, we dug in deep and put on probably the best performance we could.
fell short of the gold medal but to come away with the bronze, it’s something
that we’ll cherish and honour for the rest of our lives.”