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11 November 2022
Friday 11 November 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Rugby league, Sports
Cook Islands’ Elianna Walton celebrates with her Cazoo Player of the Match award (Getty Images for Rugby League World Cup)/ 22111026
Fresh from beating France in their final group game,
Cook Islands are already looking ahead to travelling there for the next World
Cup in three years’ time.
The Moana rounded off their tournament with one win
from three following a 26-18 victory over Les Chanticleers in an entertaining
Group B clash in York.
Head coach Rusty Matua was delighted with the
performance and backed his side to keep building as they switch their
attentions towards 2025.
He said: “Considering we lost so many key players
early in the tournament, it’s so good to end the campaign with a win.
“And a lot of the girls have been inspired to come
back better, stronger and smarter in France 2025.
“We’ve already had conversations about what we can do
Among the stars for the Moana was Elianna Walton, who
captained the Cook Islands following Kimiora Breayley-Nati’s head injury
against New Zealand
In her first ever full 80-minute international, Walton
was crowned Cazoo Player of the Match and said: “This is my third World Cup and
to play for my heritage is a real honour.
“It has been an awesome experience to learn the
culture and language.
“Every time they hit back with a try, we were barking
orders at each other, but we kept positive and kept our heads up.
“We just had to stick to our basics. It was about us
sticking to our structure and getting the win out there.
“There was a lot of respect out there after. The
France captain came up to me and asked whether I remembered her because I had
run over the top of her in the first half.
“But the camaraderie between us and the French is
France head coach Vincent Baloup had mixed emotions
following their defeat, which ensured they will finish bottom of Group B.
Mélanie Bianchini scored Les Chanticleers’ first
points of the tournament in York while Elisia Ciria dotted down twice and
Cristina Song-Puche also crossed as France fought until the end.
Baloup said: “It was a disappointing result today but
I’m very proud of the attitude of the girls on the pitch.
“It was a big challenge out there with a short turnaround
between games and a great team like the Cook Islands to face, but they really
dug deep for each other.
“We were trailing behind at times but they pulled back
when they could have let their heads drop.
“In the pool of death, we did more than survive, we
showed what we were made of. They've become sisters out there fighting for each