19 Nov 2022

Samoa one step away from ultimate sporting fairytale

2:27 pm on 19 November 2022

When Samoa lost 60-6 to England in their Rugby League World Cup opener, few eyebrows were raised, but having disposed of the hosts to book a shock final clash with Australia, Toa Samoa are one step away from a true sporting miracle.

Samoa celebrate their 2021 Rugby League World Cup Semi Final win over England

Samoa celebrate their 2021 Rugby League World Cup Semi Final win over England Photo: SWPix / www.photoport.nz

Samoa triumphed in one of the greatest games in World Cup history and are through to their first-ever final, in either rugby code, after downing England 27-26 in their semi-final thanks to Stephen Crichton's golden-point field goal.

No Pacific Island team has previously made the World Cup final and no nation has made their debut in the final since 1998.

The president of Rugby League Samoa, Tagaloa Fa'afouina Su'a, said it's indescribable what Toa Samoa has done by reaching the final with a stunning upset win over England.

Excitement is building in Auckland, with Otara and Mangere becoming unofficial fan zones, with flag-adorned vehicles blaring Samoan music throughout the day.

But even getting to the last four looked a forlorn hope after their thrashing in Newcastle last month, with the powerful Samoans, well fancied coming into the tournament, appearing to be set to falter on the world stage again.

Three big wins from three put England through to the knockout stages and a repeat of the 2017 final against Australia, which they lost 6-0, looked on the cards as they headed to London to face Samoa.

But the Samoans, who did not win a single match at the 2017 World Cup, tore up the script.

"Samoa making the Grand Final is a massive achievement, it's really reuniting Samoans, not just here in Samoa but all around the world," Tagaloa Faafouina Su'a, Samoa rugby league federation president and chairman, said.

"They all come together as Samoans. But it is not just Samoans but also our Pacific brothers Tonga, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, New Zealand and all of the Pacific representing. It's emotional for everyone.

"No matter what the result will be, we will walk out of that field with our head held up high that we did out best for Samoa. We don't have to prove anything else to the world or anyone."

Australia are the firmest of favourites to make it eight wins out of the last nine World Cups after their own thrilling victory over their Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in their semi-final in Leeds.

The Kangaroos have a 100% record against Samoa in rugby league tests, with the aggregate scoreline from their two World Cup clashes 112-10.

But having come from nowhere to overcome the odds and get this far, a Samoan side with nothing to lose cannot be completely written off in the showpiece match at Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium on Saturday.

- Reuters