LONDON, Nov 12 (Reuters) – Samoa stunned hosts England by reaching the Rugby League World Cup final with a Golden Point victory in extra time after a thrilling semi-final that went downhill. was over 26-26 on Saturday.
The Pacific Islanders, crushed 60-6 by England in the opening match of the tournament, put on a sensational display at the Emirates Stadium and sealed a spectacular victory with a daring drop goal from Stephen Crichton.
England had fought back from 20-12 up in the second half and equalized late when Herbie Farnworth scored a superb try, his second of the game, with a flowing move that started deep in his own half.
But Samoa would not be denied as they reached their first-ever Rugby World Cup final in which they will face defending champions Australia, who beat New Zealand on Friday.
England destroyed Samoa in the group stage, but there would never have been a repeat of such one-sided competition.
A fiery Samoa shed light on a first-half sin for captain Junior Paulo and lost Fa’amanu Brown and Oregon Kaufusi to head injuries after a horrific collision to lead a sloppy England 10-6 at the interval.
Salford’s Tim Lafai silenced the home crowd to give Samoa an early lead, slotting into the corner after Jarome Luai’s pass.
England continually failed to make the most of promising flurries deep in Samoan territory and even when Paulo was shown a yellow card for brutally throwing Tom Burgess dangerously into the ground, their final pass let them down.
Samoa had more problems when Brown and Kaufusi crashed headlong into each other and both ran off the pitch.
England thought they had equalized when Kallum Watkins passed under a challenge from Lafai, but his try was disallowed as he had failed to land properly.
Samoa were finally breached in the 25th minute when George Williams made two tackles and passed to Elliott Whitehead to score under the posts with the conversion of Tommy Makinson.
Ligi Sao then punished an England defensive for slipping with Stephen Crichton adding the conversion.
England regained their lead five minutes into the second half when Lafai made virtually his only error of the match, knocking the ball under his own posts to allow John Batemen to pounce and score with Makinson’s conversion.
But Samoa was not over.
They regained the lead in incredible fashion as Luai, on the final tackle, showed great improvisation to return the ball to Crichton to score.
England suddenly looked flat and a relentless Samoa side were soon in dreamland as Luai set Lafai up for a score in the corner to give them a 20-12 lead.
With their hopes on the line, England finally started to click and reduce the backlog when Farnworth piled through a wall of Samoan defenders for a try which Makinson converted before a Makinson penalty carried the score at 20-20.
But then Samoa looked to have won when a pass from Victor Radley was intercepted by Crichton who ran unopposed from the halfway line to put Samoa in sight of the final.
There was another twist, however, as Williams fed Whitehead deep into the Samoan half and he sent Farnworth running clear to score a try which Makinson converted to take an epic Golden Point lottery contest.
With the fans on the edge of their seats, Samoa had the first chance with a loaded drop goal but minutes later, from a similar position, Crichton split the posts to spark wild celebrations from the fans. Samoan players and fans.
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge
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