With Australia, Fiji, Tonga and England all contending for a place in the final, who came out victorious in the last four?
Always the tensest set of fixtures in any tournament, the semi-finals of the Rugby League World Cup took place this weekend. Australia were the only host left in the competition after New Zealand and Papua New Guinea slumped out in the quarters whilst Fiji and England sought to shake off their semi-final curses. Tonga were on a roll and dreamt of a fairy-tale ending to their impressive set of displays down under.
On Friday, the Kangaroos hosted Fiji with both nations enjoying fine tournaments so far. Valentine Holmes was truly up and running after notching five tries against Samoa in the last eight but Fiji had Suliasi Vunivalu who was going into the semis as the 2017 World Cup’s top try-scorer.
Unfortunately, it proved to be a tremendous mismatch, resulting in a 54-6 thumping by the Aussies. Holmes went over six times, meaning he is now in pole position to claim top try scorer.
The next day, Tonga faced off against England. Both sides will have been more than happy with their outings in Oceania after seeing off tough opposition in their respective groups and quarter-final fixtures but neither went into the semi-finals wanting to be sent home.
It was a tight game but England silenced sceptics by steadily marching on to a 20-0 lead, kickstarted by a try from the in-form Jermaine McGillvary. However, a late surge from the Tongans saw this margin reduced to a mere two points within the last ten minutes and England were on the ropes. Fortunately, to coach Wayne Bennett’s immense relief, England held on, but only after a last-minute try from Andrew Fifita was disallowed by referee Matt Cecchin.
The Tongans will be devastated that they could not clinch victory after such a valiant last-ditch rally and the referee’s decision will definitely haunt the squad’s dreams for a considerable time, yet they cannot be disappointed with a semi-final finish. If they continue to attract defectors from top tier nations, there is no doubt they will have a big part to play come 2021.
Saturday will see Australia play in their 13th consecutive World Cup final, maintaining their 100% completion record in the new format, and England have emerged from the semi-finals victorious for the first time since 1992, a time when they then played as Great Britain. The hosts are by undoubtedly the favourites but here’s to hoping Bennett’s side can stun the home side and bring home the Rugby League World Cup – a trophy our country has not seen since 1972.
Australia 54 – 6 Fiji
Tonga 18 – 20 England
02/12 – Australia v England (09:00)