Cook Islands narrowly take netball gold from Tonga
The Cook Islands narrowly won gold at the Samoa 2019 XVI Pacific Games, beating Tonga by a single point.
In a pressured game at the Multisport Complex, Faleata, the Cook Islands scored in the final seconds to take the final score to 44-43.
Cook Island coach Ariana Andrews-Tasola spoke tearfully after her team's victory. “It was a beautiful game of netball, played by two extremely talented Pacific teams.
"We have so much natural talent in the Pacific”.
PNG beat Samoa to take bronze at Samoa 2019. (Image: Therese Rivers/Pacific Games Office)
Tonga opened with three straight goals before Cook Islands even scored. They looked to their 288cm tall goal shooter Uneeq Palavi for the lead. It has been their fallback all week throughout the pool matches, and it worked.
Cook Islands goal defence left the court injured in the first five minutes, but the Cook Islands came back and took the lead.
Tonga looked more comfortable using a full court defence forcing Cook Island to pass backwards. But the lead changed often and by quarter time it was 13-11 to Tonga.
Cook Island came out firing after the break. Their defence worked to keep Palavi towards the outer goal circle. Tonga goal keeper Peti Talamua was clever in defence and intercepted continually without being penalised.
Tonga continued to play a running game and lead 26-22 at half time. Neither team gave an inch in the third quarter.
A brilliant interception by Cook Island wing attack Alex Iro precendented the goal that took Cook Islands to only one behind the determined Tonga.
Cook Islands were able to level the score but not take the lead. By the third quarter, it was anyone’s game and the crowd was fired up.
Pressure netball continued and both teams missed easy goals. Cook Islands took the lead for the first time in the match and Tonga looked to be in trouble.
Then Tonga clawed back to a draw, forcing Cook Islands to fight with everything they had. Cook Islands goal shooter Alana Smith goaled with seconds - prompting scenes of jubilation.
For the bronze match, Papua New Guinea beat the host nation 64-35.
After losing the opportunity to play for gold last night, Samoa came back fighting, but not as strongly as PNG.
PNG coach Richanda Kassman as pleased with the result: “These are young girls coming through taking the opportunity. I am excited about the future of netball in Papua New Guinea.“
PNG looked settled and quickly moved around the court opening up space. Samoa looked tired and were always one step behind play.
PNG continued to defend strongly all the way down the court making it challenging for Samoa offence.
PNG appeared to be in total control at quarter time, leading 16-8. Samoa changed their defence around completely in the second quarter but PNG goal attack Boio Peter kept making it all look too easy.
Samoa, which had won bronze four years ago in Port Moresby, showed flashes of the brilliant netball they played Thursday night, but then made mistakes and lost the ball.
Samoa came out fighting in the last quarter scoring two goal in quick succession.
However, PNG just kept on running and goal shooter Japerth Tulapi kept on scoring. Their win was never in doubt.
Samoa's coach Serephine Mataia said: “We gave it our best. It was not our night”.