Rugby League World Cup: Samoa 20-18 Tonga – thriller sets up England semi-final

Tonga (10) 18
Attempts: Tupou, Taukeiaho, S All Goals: All (3)
Samoa (12) 20
Attempts: Fire, Luai too Goals: Crichton (4)

Samoa booked a World Cup semi-final meeting with England after coming through a tie against Tonga in Warrington.

Tries from Jaydn Su’a and Jarome Luai gave Samoa a half-time lead, with Daniel Tupou and Siosiua Taukeiaho crossing for Kristian Woolf.

Brian To’o’s converted try sealed victory, although Sione Kato’s last-gasp effort from Tonga ensured a grandstand finish.

Samoa face England on Saturday at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

Runners-up Australia will face New Zealand in the first semi-final in Leeds on Friday.

Slick Samoa see the bruising contest

This hotly anticipated fourth quarter-final between the two Pacific Island nations did not disappoint.

Traditional pre-kick-off war dances – Sava Tau for Samoa and Sipi Tau for Tonga – provided a fitting prelude to a bruising contest full of athleticism, strength and superb ball-handling skills.

Both countries were able to flood Australia’s National Rugby League with superstar players, but Samoa settled down the fastest. Su’a scored after five minutes and Luai raced past three players to score his side’s second try after Tupou answered Tonga after landing a looping pass from St Helens defender Will Hopoate.

At that stage, the honest Samoans were threatening to break free, with only some brilliant last-ditch attacks preventing them from establishing the lead.

After weathering the big Samoan storm, Tonga capitalized on repeated sets when Soni Luke’s skilful run was brought down by Siosiua Taukeiaho.

And the momentum seemed to be in Tonga’s favor when Isaiya Katoa leveled the scores at 12-12 with 30 minutes to go.

However, Joseph Suaali’i’s superb delivery set up To’o’s decisive try.

A win for Samoa means they can look forward to their first World Cup semi-final, and a chance to atone for their embarrassment. 60-6 defeat against England at the opening of the tournament.

Saturday’s rematch in London (14:30 GMT) will be broadcast live on BBC One and BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra.

Australia reach their first men’s tournament semi-final after playing 2008 winners New Zealand at Elland Road on Friday (19:45 GMT).

The two nations have met in four previous finals, and their match will be broadcast on BBC Two and BBC Radio 5 Live.

“It was a sensational match”

Samoa coach Matt Parish spoke to BBC Sport: “There wasn’t much between the two teams. The defense was solid at the end. Tonga threw everything at us.

“I told the players at half-time that they had a chance to make history and reach the finals for the first time. But I didn’t say much. They knew what to do. Our defender Joey [Joseph Suaali’i] At the age of 19, to play like that… You talk about the meeting of the bruisers, it was a great game.

“I haven’t thought about the semi-final yet. I’m going to enjoy this and think about it tomorrow. Tonga and Samoa and Australia and New Zealand to have the support here in England is absolutely fantastic. I hope we can go to the final.”

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf: “I thought they were a little better than us. They beat us to the punch early and were probably a little better than us defensively. We had a chance to win. We didn’t quite execute, but it was disappointing.

“At the end we had enough chances to win the game. We kept the ball away when we had shots in our hands. We have to learn that.

“Our fans are outstanding. They show us their support with the passion and energy they bring. We couldn’t do their job. But everyone saw the effort we put in. We have to work on a few things. We want to win games like this.”