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Rising stocks: Players who shone in Pacific Championships Week 2

The second week of the Pacific Championships saw the Kiwis dominate in Auckland while the Cook Islands almost upset the Bati and the Orchids got the job done on home turf. 

Among the action across Saturday and Sunday a number of players stood up for their country and took their game to new heights on the international stage. 

From rookie fullbacks to speedy centres and scheming playmakers, takes a look over the players whose stocks rose during Week Two of the Pacific Championships.

Jahream Bula (Fiji)

One of 10 debutants to take the field for Fiji on Sunday, Bula still found a way to stand out among a host of quality NRL Bati representatives. The Wests Tigers rookie racked up an impressive 253 run metres, had two line breaks and capped his performance off with a crucial try to help ignite the Bati’s late surge against the Cook Islands. Bursting onto the NRL scene in May this year, Bula was a shining light in another disappointing season for the Wests Tigers but fans have plenty of reason to be optimistic for a future headlined by the promising fullback. Shifting momentum on several occasions for the Bati and putting his hand up for some tough carries, Bula proved to be a representative star of the future.

Jahream Bula played a match-winning role for Fiji Bati

Kiana Takairangi (Cook Islands)

Shifting to fullback on game day after young gun Annemarie Kiria-Ratu was ruled out with injury in the warm up, Takairangi showed her versatility and experience, starring in a role she hasn’t played since the 2017 World Cup. After featuring at centre and wing in the Sharks inaugural season, the 31-year-old capped off another impressive year, racking up 136 run metres, two line breaks and a try in her fifth Test appearance for the Cook Islands. Takairangi looks to have plenty more to give to the women’s game in years ahead.

Esan Marsters (Cook Islands)

After revealing his ambitions to return to the NRL in the lead-up to the game, the Cook Islands' makeshift halfback did his chances no harm with a dominant player-of-the-match-performance in Port Moresby on Sunday. Despite his side falling to Fiji in the final stages of the match, Marsters left it all on the field, opening the scoring with a powerful carry and laying on another two tries for his teammates. A regular centre for Huddersfield in the English Super League, the 27-year-old asked questions of the Fiji defence all game and finished with eight tackle breaks, three line breaks and 147 running metres.

Matt Timoko (Kiwis)

It was quite the Test debut for the Raiders centre who had a day out in the Kiwis' drubbing of Toa Samoa. On the back of arguably his best NRL season to date, the specialist centre ran rampant on the left edge, setting up two tries and breaking 11 tackles, more than any other player on the field. After narrowly missing out on the final Kiwis World Cup squad last year, Timoko looks set to be a first-choice centre option going forward.

Jahrome Hughes (Kiwis)

After seeing what Samoa did in the World Cup last year, Kiwi fans had every reason to be nervous when Shaun Johnson withdrew from selection, but Hughes was quick to settle any doubts. Samoa had no answer for what Hughes displayed at halfback, particularly down the Kiwis’ left edge as the Melbourne playmaker had a try and laid on another two to earn player-of-the-match honours. The 29-year-old showed moments of brilliance throughout the 2023 season but sometimes lacked consistency in his performances. But alongside an in-form Dylan Brown at five-eighth, the pair didn’t miss a beat for 80-minutes on Saturday night, combining for 315 run metres across 45 carries.   

Hughes the highlight reel

Abigail Roache (Kiwi Ferns) 

The 23-year-old enjoyed her best outing at international level, tearing Tonga to bits down right edge and crossing for three tries, each of which showed her potent combination of speed and footwork. After being overlooked for the first Test against the Jillaroos, she left coach Ricky Henry with little choice but to make her a first-choice centre for the week three rematch with Australia. It was a performance which will have been particularly pleasing for the powers that be at the Newcastle Knights, who have Roache signed on until the end of the 2024 NRLW season.

Abigail Roache could not stop scoring

Jamayne Isaako (Kiwis)

Playing his first Test since 2019, Isaako was immense as part of a dominant right edge which Samoa simply had no answer for across the 80 minutes at Eden Park. After topping the Telstra Premiership in tries scored this season he picked up right where he left off with a double inside the first 25 minutes, while his accurate boot off the tee saw him finish with 22 total points. The 27-year-old Dolphin wasn't just about the flashy stuff though, putting his hand up for 16 carries which led to a game-high 213 metre running effort. He is now set to be among the first players picked by coach Michael Maguire for the foreseeable future.

Isaako bringing his NRL scoring form

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