Samoa upset the hosts after golden point Semi-Final drama


A Stephen Crichton drop-goal was enough to send the proud pacific nation to their first-ever Rugby League World Cup Final, where they will play defending champions Australia. 

After a flawless group stage effort from England was backed up with a confident dismissal of Papua New Guinea, Shaun Wane’s England side faced the proposal of meeting with the same Samoa side whom they dispatched of in clinical fashion in the tournament opener in Newcastle. 

However, a much tougher test was to be expected from a Toa Samoa side that had just beaten Tonga in the Quarter-Finals. ‘Tougher test’ would go on to be a tremendous understatement. The game was the first and only to be played in London, with the home of Premier League leaders Arsenal playing host to the crucial encounter. 

A fast start was always going to be important for the Samoans, and that is exactly what they got when Tim Lafai capitalised on a Kallum Watkins missed tackle to dive over in the corner after just six minutes played. 

After going down to 12 following the sin bin of Junior Paulo, Samoa’s defence held firm to see out the ten-minute period, only to concede moments after their captain returned to the field of play. 

George Williams was able to break a tackle and subsequently the Samoan defensive line before finding the outside ball for Elliot Whitehead to run in an easy score. 

However, as the game passed the half-hour mark, Samoa took the lead again thanks to Ligi Sao sliding over the game line to send the underdogs into a 10-6 half-time lead. 

Just five minutes into the second half, some stout Samoan defending was undone by an in-goal fumble by Tim Lafai that was pounced on by John Bateman. 

Less than two minutes on from Tommy Makinson’s conversion, Samoa were in at the other end again as some basketball handling from Jarome Luai carved an already stretched England defensive line wide open, making it all too easy for Stephen Crichton to dive over. 

Wane spent most of the second half gesticulating from the stands, and was sent into a fit of rage as Dom Young dropped an inexplicable catch in a perilous position. 

This rage was greatly intensified just moments later as Lafai made up for his prior error to score a brace as England were caught short on the flank. 

It is perhaps unsurprising given the circumstances that tempers were flaring on the pitch, with frustrations being exerted by the English players. 

With 15 minutes remaining, England hauled themselves back to within two with a magnificent solo effort from 22-year-old Brisbane Bronco Herbie Farnworth as the Burnley-born Centre beat three Samoan defenders to power over the game line. 

A penalty from Tommy Makinson put the scores level going into a crucial final ten minutes, leaving the Emirates Stadium collectively biting their nails in anticipation. 

In what seemed like it could be a fateful moment, Stephen Crichton made a magnificent interception before a lung-bursting run-in. It seemed like the perfect DVR try to replay for years to come when talking about a great Samoan upset, but there were more twists in this tantalising tale. 

With the clock ticking away, Farnworth scored a brace of his own with an equally breathtaking run-in on a weary Samoan defence. 

As Makinson prepared his kicking tee, the tension in North London was palpable, and as the kick sailed over, golden point extra-time arrived on the immediate horizon for the 26 players on the pitch, with a World Cup final spot on the line. 

Retrieving possession in a golden point scenario is always the key to success, and it was indeed Samoa who were able to get their hands on the ball after the kick-off. 

After an initial drop goal attempt was charged down, the second sailed over as time seemed to freeze, with White and Blue shirts alike stopping to watch their opposing fates sealed. Pandemonium erupted amongst the Samoan contingents on and off the field as history was made, with Samoa reaching their first-ever World Cup final. 

Despite England’s efforts, a lack of quality from Wane’s side paired with Samoa’s refusal to crumble after being pegged back on multiple occasions, the hosts simply met their match over an 80-minute duration, and subsequently find their World Cup dream cut short. 

As for Parish and his group of fearless pacific warriors, destiny points them to Old Trafford, the theatre of dreams, where they will play reigning and defending champions, Australia. 

Regardless of the result in a week’s time, this result will always be remembered by all of those with the island of just 200,000 inhabitants close to their hearts. Fans took to the streets in jubilant celebration despite it being prior to 7:00 am in Apia. 

A memorable game, and a memorable result. There is no doubting that this match will go down as one of the greatest in tournament history. 

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