You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

In the moments immediately following Samoa’s humiliating first-up loss to England, you could have forgiven coach Matt Parish for thinking the world was against him.

Not only had their pride been dented by a 60-6 thrashing, they had also lost Braden Hamlin-Uele, Tyrone May and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to serious injuries, meaning their reserves and resolve would be sorely tested if they were going to make it out of their pool — let alone make the final.

Forward Josh Aloiai then suffered a dislocated kneecap in the second group match against Greece before hooker Danny Levi went home for personal reasons.

The man who replaced him, Fa’amanu Brown, was then concussed in the semi-final.

Panthers Premiership stars Izack Tago and Spencer Leniu were also battling shoulder injuries but amid all the chaos, there were positives for Parish in the form of his players’ passion and also the pages of history showing that a defeat during the pool stages doesn’t have to spell disaster.

Back in 2017, England lost its first game to hosts Australia 18-4 but recovered to make the final. Likewise New Zealand in 2008, who were outclassed 30-6 by the Kangaroos in their tournament opener but powered back to not only make the decider but win it in extraordinary circumstances in Brisbane.

Match Highlights: Australia v New Zealand, RLWC 2008 Final

The 1995 champions Australia had an early stumble against England before beating South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand en route to a rematch with the hosts in the final at Wembley, which they won 16-8 courtesy of tries to Rod Wishart and Tim Brasher.

None of those early tournament hiccups could compare to the pain of a 54-point loss compounded by injuries to star players, but this Samoan side has shown they are made of the right stuff.

Just eight days after the England defeat they dusted themselves off to dust off Greece 72-4 and followed that up with a 62-4 win over France, meaning they finished second in their pool and would meet Pacific neighbours Tonga in a monumental quarter-final showdown.

Tries to Jaydn Su’A, Jarome Luai and Brian To’o helped them prevail 20-18 to put them back in the ring with England, the team that had broken their hearts but not their spirit four weeks earlier.

With Leniu defying the pain of a shoulder injury and Chanel Harris-Tavita doing his bit at dummy half in Brown’s absence, Samoa got home 27-26 in a golden point epic to move into their first World Cup Final.

Just as the Kiwis had savoured the sweet taste of revenge in the '08 decider, so too Samoa in 2022 — burying the demons of a drubbing in round one to end England's tournament and advance to their first ever World Cup Final.

And just as the Kiwis sent shockwaves through the game by ending Australia's 33-year World Cup dominance, so too Samoa have the chance to knock the Kangaroos off the lofty perch they have occupied since 2013.

Match Highlights: England v Toa Samoa

“Plenty of people had plenty to say four weeks ago about going on planes home and all that. But the pride and belief and passion in this group is just phenomenal,” said Parish after the semi-final win.

“We have had our critics. A few things have gone against us. Five guys have gone home. We are down to the bare bones.

“These guys keep turning up for each other. They have got each others’ back.”

It’s the that bond which served Samoa so well in the wake of their embarrassing first-up loss and gave them the belief they could rebound.

The beauty of a seven-week tournament is that you can start slow and build to your best game and that’s what Parish’s men have done – with one more special effort needed if they are to shock the world at Old Trafford on Sunday morning (AEDT).

“I think the strategy with these guys was they never gave up,” Parish said.

Crichton puts Samoa in the final!

“They have got belief in what we are all about.

“I take my hat off to a large number of our squad, particularly these two (Junior Paulo and Jarome Luai) right beside me.

“They had a grand final seven weeks ago, but we still asked these guys to turn up and play with effort and play world-class games.

“We are obviously going against a world-class team next week.

“To put Samoa in the World Cup final, the tiny little dot in the middle of the Pacific is just incredible.”

If Parish was looking for a sign that his luck may have turned, it came with the judiciary’s decision not to charge Paulo for a lifting tackle on Tom Burgess in the semi-final, meaning he’s free to rip into the Kangaroos.

With Leniu defying the pain of a dodgy shoulder to follow Paulo into battle, and Luai and Anthony Milford conjuring magic in the halves, the sentimental favourites are full of belief that they can complete a fairytale that seemed a million miles away when England hit them for 60 just seven weeks ago.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours 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.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

View All Partners