By John Davidson, Date: 6/11/14
Samoa is hoping its third time lucky when they play Australia in Wollongong on Sunday.
Twice they have led late in Four Nations games, against England and New Zealand, twice they have failed to hold on to leads and lost. Six points was the margin with the English, just two points with the Kiwis.
Considering the effort the Samoans have given and the entertainment they have dished out, the Pacific Islanders deserve to leave this Four Nations with at least one win.
And the world champions at WIN Stadium present one almighty scalp.
Australia, with a position in the final and their proud history at stake, will be determined to not let that happen.
The Kangaroos need a victory, and a big one, to have a chance to be in the decider. They trail New Zealand on for-and-against by 34 points and England by 16, so a heavy win over Samoa is essential if the Poms defeat the Kiwis.
Ben Hunt helped spur the match against England in Australia’s favour on Sunday in the second half, so he may be given another chance to impress.
Hunt came on at hooker, with Cameron Smith moving to lock, giving the Aussies a lot more attacking focus. Such is the skill and toughness of Smith, you could put the Melbourne Storm rake anywhere and he would still be one of the best players on the park.
Goal-kicking has been Samoa’s major downfall in this Four Nations so Ben Roberts and Kyle Stanley will be to clinical in front of the posts and take their chances for Samoa to seal a historic win.
If the men in blue can keep it tight, win the wrestle and dominate up front, they can rattle the Kangaroos. The return of Reni Maitua from suspension should help – the former Australian representative forward has loads of experience in big matches from his long career in the NRL.
It has been a disappointing tournament so far for Australia, one that has been a severe wake-up call for the 2013 World Cup winners. A first-time defeat to Samoa, and missing the Four Nations final, would be the ultimate insult.
Josh Papalii comes into the starting front row, with Sam Thaiday moving to the back row, as Tim Sheens goes for more grunt in the pack.
Australia’s attack has yet to sparkle with all the creative options they boast, while its defence has shown none of the grit and determination event in England late last year.
If the Kangaroos underestimate Samoa, as many have done before the Four Nations started, they are in for a rude shock.