After five weeks of action, Australia and Samoa will battle it out in Saturday’s Rugby League World Cup final at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Week five saw two action-packed semi-finals in which Australia were pushed all the way by their old rivals New Zealand, while Samoa stunned England with a golden-point win.
We look back at both semi-finals and cast an eye towards next Saturday’s final.
It was a trans-Tasman clash on Friday evening at Elland Road in Leeds as Australia faced off against New Zealand in what had the makings of a classic.
And a classic it turned out to be as Australia crawled into the final after edging out the Kiwis 16-14 in a match that see-sawed throughout and left many describing it as one of the greatest ever games of rugby league.
New Zealand led at the half-time hooter 14-10 after a breathless first half that saw converted tries from Jahrome Hughes and Dylan Brown plus a penalty goal from Jordan Rapana for the Kiwis, with the Kangaroos responding with a Josh Addo-Carr converted try and a try from Valentine Holmes.
That was Addo-Carr’s record-equalling 12th try of the tournament, and he’ll fancy his chances of making it at least 13 against Samoa in the final. A converted try from Cameron Murray in the second half edged Australia ahead, and despite massive pressure from the Kiwis, the Kangaroos held on to once more make it to the Rugby League World Cup final.
Toa Samoa stun the hosts
Having thrashed Samoa 60-6 in their opening game of the tournament, many England fans felt Saturday’s semi-final at the Emirates in London would be a formality for the hosts as they aimed to seal their spot in the final.
However, Samoa stunned the Three Lions with a golden-point win to book their first-ever appearance in the final next Saturday. Having led eight points heading into the final quarter and then by six in the dying seconds of the match, many thought Samoa’s chance had gone as England battled to stay in the tournament.
The hooter saw the teams deadlocked at 26-26, so extra time beckoned and the sudden death golden point scenario. And it was Samoa’s Stephen Crichton who was his country’s hero – slotting over a drop goal to send his nation into their first-ever Rugby League World Cup final while leaving England’s hearts broken.
So Saturday will see a southern hemisphere clash as Australia and Samoa battle it out in Manchester in the Rugby League World Cup final. The Kangaroos are the reigning champions and have won their last 17 World Cup games, so they head into the final as strong favourites with the bookmakers.
These nations have met just three times before, and it’s been Australian dominance so far – the Kangaroos have won all three games with a combined score of 154-10. But Samoa may feel victory is their destiny after two bruising battles against Tonga and England.
No matter who wins, though, Saturday’s Rugby League World Cup final is a match not to be missed.