Cook Islands get their first win after titanic struggle

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France Women v Cook Islands Women

The Cook Islands have defeated France by 26-18 for their first victory in this Women's Rugby League World Cup after a titanic struggle at the LNER Community Stadium in York.

It was both sides' final match of the group stage, but with national pride as well as their first win of the tournament on the line. Both sides had a point to prove in this match and made their intentions known right from the opening whistle. It was the Cook Islands that opened the scoring after a tough opening 15 minutes of play. The play that led to the first try was well orchestrated, the Cook Islands had several bodies in motion before April Ngatupuna crashed over to score. 

Eight minutes later, France was able to capitalise on some strong field position and hit back on the scoreboard when Melanie Bianchini ran perfectly onto a lovely pass from the French captain Alice Varela. Unfortunately, goal-kicking would be a major factor in this fixture as the miss from out-wide by Elisa Ciria saw France still trailing by two points with just under fifteen minutes remaining in the first half. 

Three minutes later, that margin was extended out to eight points when Terehia Matua charged her way forward to the line and the French were struggling to hang in there with the opposition as they were trailing 12-4. That's the way the score would remain as both sides went into half-time. Straight after the break, the Cook Islands continued their scoring when boom youngster Mackenzie Wiki crossed the line for the second time this tournament. Wiki was able to get on the end of a lovely set play to cross in the right corner and it was beginning to be one-way traffic. 

But, the French side was able to hang in there and their efforts were rewarded six minutes later. A charging run down the middle was backed up by 5/8 Elisa Ciria who importantly improved the position for her conversion to reduce the gap to just six points. Cook Islands responded on the hour mark with a clever try. Alekermay Tuaana was on the receiving end of a great off-load to extend the lead for the Pacific island nation.

Four minutes later though, France were able to restore some order back into the contest. Cristina Song-Puche was on the end of a clever pass from the French second rower and she was able to cross in the right corner, but once again goal-kicking haunted France's chance at a comeback. The result was put beyond doubt eight minutes from time when Tetuanui Dean crashed over from acting half. A consolation try to Ciria reduced the gap to eight but it was in vein as the Cook Islands' ladies celebrated their first win of the tournament finishing their campaign on a winning note. 

France Women 18 - Cook Islands Women 26

Venue: LNER Community Stadium, York
Crowd: 3370
Halftime Score: France Women 4 Cook Islands Women 12 Players of the Match:
3 points - Elianna Walton
2 points - Mackenzie Wiki
1 points - Elisa Ciria

Tries: Melanie Bianchini, Elisa Ciria (2), Cristina Song Puche
Conversions: Elisa Ciria (1/4)

Tries: April Ngatupuna, Terehia Matua, Mackenzie Wiki, Alekermay Tuaana, Tetuanui Dean
Conversions: Terehia Matua (3/5)

See how it happened in our Match Centre