April Ngatupuna shone as Cook Islands beat France 26-18 to claim their first win of the World Cup.
The 19-year-old made seven tackle breaks and dotted down early to help set Cook Islands on their way to victory in a game between the two Group B sides with no chance of progression.
Terehia Matua, Mackenzie Wiki, Alekermay Tuaana and Tetuanui Dean also crossed for the Cook Islands, with Elisa Ciria’s double added to by Mélanie Bianchini and Cristina Song Puche for France in a topsy-turvy battle.
The contest was physical from the outset, Wiki taking an early hit which led to a delay in play before an Ngatupuna charge saw Cook Islands come close to taking the lead only for Charlize Tumu-Makara to be held up on the line.
There was no stopping Ngatupuna in the 18th minute, however, the prop picking an incisive line and barging through to dot down for a converted try.
Les Chanticleers threatened but having initially been kept at bay by determined defence, they eventually found a way through when captain Alice Varela fed wide to Bianchini, who crossed on the left for France’s first points of the World Cup.
Their celebrations were quickly halted as a carry by Matua saw the interchange charge over the line for the Cook Islands and restore their cushion.
Anaëlle Meunier looked dangerous on the left for France with two brilliant bursts in the first half but the winger was forced into touch by the Moana defence on both occasions.
The Cook Islands led 12-4 at the break and started the second half determined to put the result beyond doubt, quickly feeding the ball right in a well-structured set for Wiki to cross just two minutes after the restart.
France hit back in style, Perrine Monsarrat making the initial break down the middle before offloading inside to Ciria for the score.
The pivotal moment came when Jazmon Tupou-Witchman fed Tuaana for Cook Islands’ fourth try of the night, though France did not go down without a fight as Song Puche dotted down in the corner from a Lauréane Biville assist.
Both sides had time to squeeze in one more try apiece in York as Dean burrowed over the line before Ciria crossed for her second to bring a fitting end to an entertaining encounter.