Sunday, 02 Apr 2023

Samoas Stephen Crichton breaks England hearts with golden drop goal

Samoas Stephen Crichton breaks England hearts with golden drop goal

Samoas Stephen Crichton breaks England hearts with golden drop goal

In 2013 it was Shaun Johnson's try. Four years later it was the ankle-tap on Kallum Watkins that denied a certain try in the final. And now there is another painstaking World Cup moment etched into the memories of England supporters for eternity courtesy of Stephen Crichton.

How does one even begin to sum up arguably the most extraordinary semi-final in World Cup history? Whether or not Samoa can challenge Australia in their first final next Saturday is a debate that can be parked for now because they deserve their moment to celebrate the most historic win their nation has known.

They were worthy winners. Having led by eight points with 15 minutes remaining and then again by six in the dying moments, they might have felt they could have won it sooner. But they held their nerve when it mattered and, as the England players slumped to the turf collectively when Crichton landed the winning drop goal in golden-point extra time, the hosts realised their moment had passed.

"They were the better team," England's beaten coach, Shaun Wane, said as he fought back tears. "It's just not good enough on the biggest stage. I can't doubt my players' effort but they're absolutely devastated." England have been outstanding in this World Cup but, painfully, they reserved their worst performance of the tournament for the biggest stage yet.

Samoa, though, were worthy winners in the end, with Crichton's dramatic drop goal no less than they deserved. "There is a lot of people who are praying for us all around the world," their captain, Junior Paulo, said. "This one is for them. I believe we have been playing through their prayers and blessings over the last couple of weeks. We owe it to the people of Samoa."

Samoa deservedly led 10-6 at half-time after tries from Tim Lafai and Ligi Sao. England responded with a try from Elliott Whitehead but it was hard to argue that Matt Parish's side were the superior outfit in the first half. One wondered how England would respond, and the answer came when John Bateman touched down and Tommy Makinson converted to make it 12-10 in England's favour.

But the drama was just beginning. Back-to-back tries from Lafai and Crichton put Samoa ahead by eight, but that stirred England into life again. With 15 minutes remaining, Herbie Farnworth's try reduced the gap to two before a penalty from Makinson levelled the scores at 20-20.

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