Samoa are through to a historic first-ever World Cup final after defeating England 27-26 in golden point extra-time in a thrilling contest at the Emirates.

In front of 40,484 fans in London, the Polynesian team toppled the host’s thanks to a field goal from Stephen Crichton.

They will now face Australia in the World Cup final at Old Trafford on November 19.

It was a terrible start from Samoa, who kicked the ball out on the full at the kick-off.

England were on the attack early, and only strong defence stopped them from scoring.

But in the fifth minute, it was Samoa who struck, Lafai brushing past a poor attempted tackle from Kallum Watkins to cross.

Crichton missed the conversion, but his side had the early lead.

In the 12th minute, Junior Paulo was sin-binned for a spear tackle on Tom Burgess.

England had a great chance to hit back and were camped on Samoa’s try-line, but the Pacific nation’s D held tough.

Soon after, there was an ugly clash of heads between Oregon Kaufusi and Fa’amanu Brown, both were replaced straight after. The concussion meant Chanel Harris-Tavita took the reins at hooker.

On 20 minutes, Watkins seemed to have made up for his earlier lapse when he barged over out wide after a shift to the right.

But the video referee ruled no try, with the centre unable to plant the ball down thanks to brilliant defending from Lafai, and Samoa stayed in front.

In the 25th minute, England finally responded when George Williams took the line, broke through and found Elliot Whitehead in support to score.

Tommy Makinson’s kick edged them 6-4 in front.

However, with nine minutes left in the half Ligi Sao ran on the short side, dummied and crashed over to put Samoa ahead again.

Crichton nailed his kick to make it 10-6 at the break.

In the second half, an error from Lafai came to haunt the Samoans.

The centre dropped a bomb on his try-line, and John Bateman pounced to score and tie it up.

Makinson’s conversion poked England ahead 12-10.

But in the 49th minute, a sensational pass from Jarome Luai, after a series of great offloads, ended in Crichton’s hands and the centre scored.

He converted his own to put Samoa 16-12 in front. It was an outrageous piece of skill in a classic game.

There was still more to come, and in the 55th minute, Dom Young dropped a kick on his own line.

It proved crucial as in the next set as Tim Lafai touched down to put Samoa even further ahead.

Crichton missed his conversion, leaving it at 20-12.

Anger was rising amongst both teams, particularly from England as they hunted from a response. A big melee erupted between Sam Tomkins and Luai.

It came with 16 minutes left when Herbie Farnworth bulldozed his way past several tackles to cross.

Makinson’s successful kick cut the score back to 20-18.

England had hope, and then in the 68th minute, the winger nailed a penalty to tie the match up.

The hosts were finishing stronger but with seven minutes left, disaster struck for them.

Crichton intercepted Victor Radley’s pass and raced away 60 metres to score. His conversion made it 26-20.

But there was more drama to come with two minutes to go, Williams breaking through to set up Farnworth for a fantastic try.

Makinson had the kick to tie it up, and he did with just 66 seconds left.

The game went to golden point where Anthony Milford had a field goal attempt charged down.

Then Crichton stepped up and landed his long range to win the game and break English hearts.

England 26

Tries: E. Whitehead (25), J. Bateman (45), H. Farnworth (64), H. Farnworth (78)

Goals: T. Makinson (26), T. Makinson (46), T. Makinson (65), T. Makinson (68), T. Makinson (79)

Samoa 27

Tries: T. Lafai (6), L. Sao (31), S. Crichton (49), T. Lafai (57), S. Crichton (73)

Goals: S. Crichton (33), S. Crichton (50), S. Crichton (75)

Field Goal: S. Crichton (84)

Fite

John Davidson
John is a freelance journalist who has been writing about rugby league for the past decade. He covered the 2013 and 2017 World Cups, has appeared on TV and radio, and been published in The I-Paper, The Guardian, The Sun, The Mirror, League Express, Inside Sport magazine and Big League. He writes regularly for Forty-20 magazine, League Weekly and co-hosts the podcasts By the Balls and Six To Go.