Tonga and Fiji booked their places in the Sol2023 Pacific Games netball gold medal match on Saturday at Friendship Hall, courtesy of semi-final wins on Friday.
Seeded among the top five teams to grace Sol2023’s netball competition, Tonga edged out Samoa to win by 1 goal in the first semi-final (57-56), whilst Fiji defeated Papua New Guinea 59-45 in the second.
Ranked number 8 in world netball and runners up at the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games, Tonga Tala had to dig deep throughout all four quarters to beat a spirited and very determined Samoa side to secure the place in the gold medal match.
Leading at the end of the first quarter, Tonga were pinned back by the ladies in blue in the second and third quarters, before coming back strongly to take out the final quarter and secure their place.
“Today’s game was very challenging; Samoa really gave it their all. I felt nervous before the game but at the end we got the job done so for that we are all incredibly proud and happy,” Tonga’s goal shooter, Uneeq Palavi told the Pacific Games News Service.
On what to expect in Saturday’s final showdown with Fiji, Palavi said: “I reckon Fiji, will be twice as physical as Samoa was. They had a great match with Samoa so the final will be tough, and we will give it our all”.
The Fiji Pearls, who were absent from Samoa 2019 but are ranked 18 in the world are also one of the favorites to win gold this year.
Seeing off PNG in their semi-final win today, Fiji led from start to finish, dominating possession and putting in the goals against a spirited PNG side.
Looking ahead to the gold medal match, Fiji vice captain Alesi Waqa Paul said: “Today’s win has gone and we are now looking forward to the final against Tonga. We are very excited and going into the match as the underdogs. Nevertheless, we will do our best and aim to win gold for our country.”
Saturday’s netball action begins with the bronze medal match between Samoa and PNG at 8:30am followed by the gold medal match at 10:30am between Tonga and Fiji.
By Roselyn Toliliu, Olyn Kao and Leilanie Kama, Pacific Games News Service