“It was a tough tournament but it was the same for all the teams, we all played the same number of games"

Papua New Guinea finished third with a 7-1 win over New Caledonia in a match for the bronze medal and the bragging rights of a podium finish.

Going into the match both sides were motivated to do well and restore some pride after being knocked out of the semi-finals and it looked like it would be a close encounter despite Papua New Guinea running out to a 6-2 victory when they met during the group stage.

On that occasion Marie Kaipu was the irritant for New Caledonia, this time it was Meagen Gunemba taking up the mantle in her teammates absence as she took just five minutes to outpace the backline and slot the opener past Dolores Bodeouarou.

Clearly unhappy to have conceded so early on, New Caledonia worked hard to find an equaliser,controlling the midfield for long periods but struggling to find a connection between the middle and the attacking line. They managed to get off a couple of shots, Ami-Nata Ajapuhnya with the best of them, however Papua New Guinea goalkeeper Betty Sam was barely tested.

It was a much tougher day on the pitch for her counterpart Bodeouarou who had to deal Gunemba and her striker partner Yvonne Gabong becoming constant threats with their darting runs in behind the defence.

Gunemba had her brace by the 36th minute while Gabong added a third goal to the team’s tally just before the break.

Selina Unamba was next on the board as PNG extended the lead to four before Gunemba had her hat-trick in the 54th minute.

New Caledonia made a key change in the 59th minute as teenager Jackie Pahoa entered the field,taking just one minute to find the back of the net.

However, that only motivated Papua New Guinea to do more as Gunemba struck in the 82nd for her fourth of the afternoon before captain Sandra Birum made it seven.

Winning coach Peter Gunemba was pleased his side were able to take something home from a tournament which proved more gruelling than usual for his side.

“I’m proud of the girls. I told them we don’t have to go home empty handed, we win third place and that’s it,” he said.

“I expected this performance should be in the semi-final but it didn’t happen so I was pleased to see them play this way today as that’s what I expect from them.

“The girls really wanted to play but because of the fitness we couldn’t stand a chance against Fiji. I think we will need to prepare a bit earlier for the Pacific Games.”

Meanwhile for Kamali Fitialeata it was not the way he wanted to end the tournament but conceded Papua New Guinea was the better side on the day.

“The match was tough, I thought the girls were ready for today but then I get the impression they were tired, worn out,” he said.

“It was a tough tournament but it was the same for all the teams, we all played the same number of games, made the same trips so for us, I’m not sure what exactly it was but perhaps there’s an unconscious block when it comes to Papua New Guinea.”

In the competition’s individual awards it was New Zealand who took home the majority with the team picking up Fairplay, while Sarah Gregorius was joint-top scorer along with Papua New Guinea’s Meagen Gunemba.

Consistent performances across the course of the competition led to New Zealand midfielder Betsy Has sett earning the Golden Ball while Fiji goalkeeper Adi Tuwai was awarded the Golden Gloves.

December 4, 2018