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The Papua New Guinea Orchids secured a gritty 28-20 victory in front of home fans after overcoming a late surge from the Cook Islands Moana in their Pacific Championship clash in Port Moresby. 

After losing their skipper Elsie Albert on game day, the Orchids rose to the occasion in their inaugural Pacific Championship Test with a host of young forwards showing a promising future ahead for the rising international side.

Meanwhile, after trailing 28-10 with less than 25 minutes to play the Cook Islands fought their way back to within eight-points with halfback Lydia Turua-Quedley inspirational in defence, producing three superb try-savers at Santos National Football Stadium.

It was the Orchids who opened the scoring in the tenth minute when Roswita Kapo scooted over from dummy half close to the line and got across for her side's first try of the Pacific Championships. Emily Veivers' conversion made it 6-0 to the Orchids.

Roswita Kapo Try

An impressive break from Jazmon Tupou-Witchman then put the Cook Islands on the front foot and the visitors went over in similar fashion with opposing No. 9 Chelsea Makira exploding out of dummy half to level the scores 6-6.

PNG took the lead four minutes later when Cowboys forward Essay Banu carried four Cook Island defenders over the tryline with her to make it 12-6. 

The Orchids went further ahead in the 23rd minute when halfback Ua Ravu put in a well-weighted grubber for winger Lyiannah Allen to chase through and score. 

Lyiannah Allan Try

The arm wrestle continued when Moana halfback Turua-Quedley showed off her ball playing skills, opening up an opportunity for Mahinaarangi Rewi down the short side to reduce the deficit 16-10.

But in the shadows of half time, PNG gave themselves some breathing room when debutant Leila Kerowa did it all herself, with a show and go from close range handing the home side a ten-point lead at halftime. 

The arm wrestle continued early in the second half but the Orchids all but put the game to bed when halfback Ravu combined with her left edge to send Test debutant Latoniya Norris-Addo over for a career first and hand Allen a double. The Orchids had a 28-10 lead with 22 minutes to play.

The Cook Islands continued to show plenty of heart to stay in the contest with NRLW stars Chantay Kiria-Ratu combining with Kiana Takairangi in the 58th minute and Chantelle Holloway-Samuels finishing off a nice right-side raid 28-20 was as close as they came to overcoming PNG's early lead.

Match Snapshot 

  • Orchids leader Elsie Albert was ruled out on game day after succumbing to an ongoing calf injury. Sera Koroi and Belinda Gwasamun took over captaincy duties. 
  • Moana halfback Lydia Turua-Quedley was inspirational for her side in both attack and defence with a try assists, two line break assists and 18 tackles.
  • Orchids fullback Latoniya Norris-Addo left the field in the 56th minute for a head injury assessment and did not return.
  • Debutant Leila Kerowa was immense for the Orchids after being called up on game day with three line breaks from 80 run metres in her 37-minute performance.
  • Orchids co-captain Belinda Gwasamun had a try, four tackle breaks and 59 post contact metres in a player of the match performance.

Play of the Game 

With No. 19 on her back, forward Leila Kerowa wasted no time in making an impact on debut for the Orchids, after being called up in the absence of injured skipper Elsie Albert. Ten minutes after entering the fray, the promising forward produced a stunning run, bamboozling Cook Islands defenders with a dummy before crashing over the line to hand her side an important ten-point lead.

Leila Kerowa Try

What They Said 

"I think we finished off pretty good, we had a terrible start with too many errors in that first half and allowed too much momentum for the PNG girls. But I think our debutants did well today, we had eight in our side and I think they learnt a lot from today. Although it was a loss, I think we learnt a lot moving forward." - Cook Islands coach Rusty Matua

"Overall, to came away with a result like that on your home turf I'm really proud of them. They probably let themselves down a little bit towards the back end of the game, but that's a credit to the Cook Islands too, they came home strong. There's a strong contingent of players now who have come back from the World Cup and have a really good bond and have set some high standards which only helps the younger players follow suit." - Papua New Guinea coach Ben Jeffries

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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