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Samoa have stunned host nation England to book their place in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup Final with a Stephen Crichton field goal in Golden Point securing a thrilling 27-26 win.

With the scores locked at 20-20, Crichton looked to have secured the result for Matt Parish's side with an intercept try six minutes from full-time, only for England halfback George Williams to return serve and send Herbie Farnworth over for his second try of the game with a stunning long-range effort.

After Tommy Makinson calmly slotted the conversion from out wide to send the match into Golden Point, Crichton would again be the star of the show, stepping up from 30 metres out to land the match-winning play for the Pacific nation.

Samoa — who came into the tournament ranked as the eighth nation in the world — will now take on Australia next Sunday in their first World Cup Final.

England face fierce Samoan Siva Tau

Forced to defend their own line early after putting the opening kickoff of the match out on the full, it was Samoa who took a surprise lead after five minutes with Jarome Luai finding Tim Lafai on the left edge, who showed sharp awareness to get on the outside of club teammate Kallum Watkins and outpace the centre to the line.

Lafai opens the scoring for Samoa

Behind for the first time all tournament, England would almost immediately find themselves back on the attack when Junior Paulo — who successfully contested a judiciary charge from the quarter-final to take part in the semi-final — again found himself in hot water following a lifting tackle on Thomas Burgess.

With Paulo in the sin bin, plus Fa'amanu Brown and Oregon Kaufusi both off the field for head injury assessments, England looked to have returned serve through Watkins, only for video review official Adam Gee to deny the try after replays showed Lafai had somehow stopped his opposite number from grounding the ball.

The hosts would eventually get their breakthrough shortly after Paulo returned, however, with former Raiders teammates George Williams and Elliott Whitehead combining to put England in front after 25 minutes.

Watkins' unhappy first half continued when Samoa hit back in the 31st minute; Ligi Sao taking advantage of some lazy marker work from the Three Lions to outpace Watkins down the left edge and dummy his way over to score, giving Matt Parrish's side a deserved 10-6 lead as the teams hit the half-time sheds.

The talented England centre wouldn't have to wait long to make amends for his opening half woes — opening the second half with a huge tackle on Lafai to force an error and gift John Bateman a try under the posts which restored the hosts' lead.

It was then Jarome Luai's time to take charge, with the Samoan playmaker producing two moments of magic in the space of eight minutes to push the Pacific powerhouse out to a 20-12 lead with 20 minutes remaining.

Luai: 'Loving this moment'

The first finished in arguably the try of the tournament — a stepping, jinking run that featured a no-look overhead offload from Junior Paulo and a volleyball pass from Luai for Stephen Crichton to score — while the second, a sharp step back inside of an on-rushing Dominic Young, sent Lafai over for his second try of the game.

The result was suddenly commanding advantage for Samoa, who led beyond a converted try heading into the final quarter of the match.

Late Crichton intercept gives Samoa slim lead

Befitting for contest, there were more twists to come, with Herbie Farnworth crossing to pull the hosts within two before a Tommy Makinson penalty goal levelled the scores once again — only for Crichton to pick Radley's pass off and race away.

Williams and Farnworth combined again to send the game into Golden Point, but there would be no denying Samoa and Crichton, with the Panthers centre stepping up to kick his team into their first ever World Cup Final.

Match Snapshot

  • Tim Lafai's opening try saw England trail for the first time all tournament.
  • Junior Paulo was sin binned for a lifting tackle in the first half, and was placed on report for the incident, which will be assessed by the match review panel.
  • Samoa gave away five penalties in the first half but only conceded one try.
  • Samoa's average set distance was more than 50 metres and significantly above that of England, who averaged slightly more than 40 metres per set.
  • Tim Lafai scored a double for Samoa, having scored a brace against Greece and a brace against France already earlier in the World Cup. 
  • Herbie Farnworth and Stephen Crichton also both scored doubles.
  • Tommy Makinson slotted a key penalty in the second half to level the match at 20-20 before converting in the 79th minute to send the game into Golden Point.
  • England five-eighth Jack Welsby was involved in two errors inside his own half in Golden Point, knocking on in the opening set before he and Sam Tomkins combined for a forward pass that would eventually set Samoa up for the win.
  • Stephen Crichton become the first Samoa player since Willie Swann in 2000 to kick a field goal at the World Cup. 

Play of the Game

Having just watched his side's half-time lead disappear, Jarome Luai produced a moment of brilliance for Samoa — stepping off his left foot several times to bamboozle the English defence before finding Junior Paulo close to the line. The play didn't end there, however, with Paulo sensationally offloading the ball backwards over his head as he fell to the ground; Luai in the right place at the right time to volleyball pass the ball for Crichton to score arguably the try of the World Cup.

One of the craziest offloads you'll see sends Crichton over

What They Said

"I don't think anyone gave us a chance tonight, but the belief in this group is really strong. I'm a bit emotional, I'm missing my family but I'm loving this moment right now. You can see around the world right now how much of a global thing this is. Our scramble and our brotherhood really showed tonight and this has never been done before for Samoa." — Samoa five-eighth Jarome Luai

"Not good enough and the best team won. I'm gutted and wounded. I was never happy in that game. We were below our standards. I'm looking at what I did and what I did in training; I think there will be a bit of soul-searching from the staff. The players' effort in this tournament has been great, but it wasn't good enough today. Samoa were the best team today. We have to be better, this is not good enough. A semi-final is underperforming." — England coach Shaun Wane

Paulo binned against England

What's Next

Samoa will play tournament favourites Australia next Sunday (AEDT) in their first World Cup final while England will be left with a feeling of what could have been given their strong performances throughout the group stages and quarterfinals.

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.