Cook Islands to face Tonga for netball gold
The Cook Islands netball team will play their first gold medal match in 28 years when they meet Tonga at Samoa 2019 XVI Pacific Games on Friday.
Cook Islands booked a place in the final by defeating Papua New Guinea 58-31 at the Multisport Centre, Faleata, urged on by their boisterous fans.
“This is great for Cook Island netball. Last time we were in a gold medal match was 1991. We have a huge support base, both here and at home,” said coach Suzanne Evans.
Both teams entered the game undefeated from pool matches. Cook Islands took the lead and kept PNG goaled for the first four minutes.
The shorter PNG defence Isabelle Roakeina stuck to goal shooter Elena Mataora like glue in an effort to stop her accurate scoring.
Both sides struggled to settle and missed passes. The first quarter score of 17-9 didn’t reflect the game, as PNG fought every pass causing umpires to call contact especially on the agile PNG defences. Both Cook Islands and PNG changed their team around in the third quarter which meant another period of resettling. More changes in the last quarter gave teams a chance to test some position options for Friday’s game.
For Tonga, their 48-44 victory against Samoa was closely a fought battle.
Tongan coach Jawun Pari Makea Simpson said: “I am so proud of these kids. They’ve been together for a week. Tonga have never medaled in netball. I’m so grateful to be part of this. Samoa were outstanding tonight.”
Samoa led at the first break 12-11, both teams felt the pressure of the defeaning crowd who judged every error.
With a half time score 25-21 to Samoa, Tonga came out fighting in the third quarter and scored seven goals in four minutes. It was masterclass in netball.
Samoa edged it back, Tonga rallied. Every pass counted and the scores tied. In the fourth quarter Tonga capitalised on every error, but still Samoa kept coming back.
Every single time. Scores drew again.
Tonga kept lobbing the ball to 188 cm goal shooter Uneeq Palavi and they pulled ahead by four to take the win.