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2021 RLWC Semi-Final, England 26 Samoa 27

Shannon Meyer reviews the second World Cup Semi Final which saw Samoa advance to the final after a field goal in Golden Point seal the win for Samoa.

SCOREBOARD

England 26
Tries: Herbie Farnworth 2 (63, 77), Elliott Whitehead (24), John Bateman (43)
Goals: Tommy Makinson 5 (25, 44, 65, 68 – pen, 78)

Samoa 27
Tries: Tim Lafai 2 (5, 57), Stephen Crichton 2 (48, 73), Ligi Sao (30)
Goals: Stephen Crichton 3 (32, 49, 75)
Field Goals: Stephen Crichton (84)

MATCH REPORT

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Samoa will meet Australia in the Rugby League World Cup final after a 27-26 win over England at the Emirates Stadium in London, a see-sawing game which saw the lead change multiple times, and needed an 84th minute field goal to split the teams.

England started off brightly enough, attacking the Samoan line in the first minute, but it was Samoa who silenced the London crowd with the first try of the match in the fifth minute. On the back of a set restart, Jarome Luai fired the perfect cut out pass to Tim Lafai who split the English defence to score. A 4-0 lead to Samoa and certainly a better start than their first match of the tournament.

That good start for Samoa was stalled in the 12th minute when Paulo was sin binned for a lifting tackle on Tom Burgess. It wasn’t good, but not the worst and a sin bin seemed appropriate. Before Paulo returned Samoa lost Fa’amanu Brown and Oregon Kaufusi to a HIA (the two suffered a head clash attempting a tackle). Brown was not to return which meant Chanel Harris-Tavita would play hooker for most of the match.

But where England have been clinical and sharp in attack throughout the World Cup, they looked to push a little too hard early, especially with the player advantage. With three minutes of the sin bin remaining England eventually did cross the line, but the Kallum Watkins try was ruled out by the Video Referee for a knock on. Herbie Farnworth lost a great chance two minutes later and the score remained 4-0 to Samoa despite going a player down.

Despite being unable to score with a player advantage, England did it minutes after Paulo returned. The try was set up with a George Williams line break deep inside Samoa territory, complete with dummy and offload to a supporting Elliott Whitehead who continued his scoring ways. The easy conversion saw England take the lead for the first time in the match.

It didn’t last long as five minutes later Samoa were in for their second try. After a good set got them from 20 metres to withing 10 metres of the England line, Ligi Sao picked the ball up from dummy half, ran down the short blind side, and weaved his way through some ordinary attempts to tackle from England. Stephen Crichton converted for a 10-6 lead for Samoa.

On the balance of the first half England had more opportunities and were the more dominant side, but Samoa took their chances well and were troubling England with their offloads.

Samoa should have scored early in the second half but blew a four-on-one overlap. England made them pay a few minutes later when a spilled kick in the Samoan in-goal fell the way of John Bateman who scored under the posts. Tommy Makinson added the points and the lead had changed again with the score now England 12 Samoa 10.

The lead didn’t last long as Samoa turned on some magic to score. Crichton was the one to eventually score, but it was a product of some real ad-lib football from Jarome Luai and a brilliant offload from Paulo as he was falling to the ground, and England eventually ran out of cover when Crichton crossed. Crichton converted for a 16-12 lead.

Samoa were well on top at this stage and England looked a little rattled, no more evident than Dom Young dropping a simple bomb under little pressure. Not long after Samoa punished them for the mistake as Lafai scored his second try of the match. It was simple enough as Samoa went down the blind side, and like Lafai’s first try, Luai threw the final pass. Crichton missed the sideline conversion and the score remain 20-12.

Not long after England had a golden opportunity to decrease the margin with three sets in a row on the Samoan line and eventually they scored, and it was a determined effort from Herbie Farnworth close to the line. The England centre broke through at least four tackles and dragged another two over the line. Makinson’s conversion made it 20-18 with 15 minutes to go.

England received a fortunate penalty on their next set, with a push on Sam Tomkins by Paulo after Tomkins has hoisted a bomb deemed dangerous contact. It probably would not have been checked in the NRL, but regardless it gave England a chance to even up the score which Makinson did to the delight of the crowd: 20-20 was the score with 12 minutes to go.

Sensation with seven minutes to go as intercept expert Crichton repeated his 2021 NRL Grand Final heroics with a steal of the Victor Radley pass on the halfway line. Once in the clear no one could stop the Samoan centre. Crichton converted his own kick and Samoa were back in front 26-20.

But England had some sensation left in them with a long range try of their own. George Williams dummied and broke through the Samoan defence on his own 20 metre line, and after a 30 metre run drew the fullback and set Farnworth on his way from the remaining metres for his second try. Makinson made the difficult conversion for a 26-26 scoreline with one minute of regular time to go.

And England had a half chance to steal the game in the closing seconds, but fell short. Extra time was now required. 

An early error from England in attack in Golden Point gave Samoa a golden chance to steal the game, but the Anthony Milford field goal attempt was charged down. 

But England gave them another chance not long after with a forward pass called on them, and this time it was Crichton who nailed it from 30 metres out to give the Samoans a historic victory.

For Samoa it is a huge moment for them making a final, and fully justifies the NRL players choosing heritage over Australia, somewhat controversially for some. Joseph Suaali’i was immense at the back, and showed why he has carried so much hype in his short senior career so far. Their outside backs were also fantastic and caused the English problems all match. Jarome Luai was also at his best. But what a way to take revenge for the 60-6 loss in the first game of the season.

England had enough opportunities to win this game, but were unable to take advantage and made more errors than we have seen all World Cup. 

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