SAMOA kept their nerve in one of the greatest World Cup semi-finals in history as England went out on home soil in a heartbreaking 27-26 defeat.
England looked a shadow of their former selves in the first-half as Samoa crossed through Tim Lafai in the fifth minute.
The host nation did reply on 24 minutes through Elliott Whitehead after the forward took a brilliant George Williams offload. Tommy Makinson converted for a 6-4 lead as Junior Paulo sat in the sinbin for a dangerous tackle.
However, Hull FC’s Ligi Sao thwarted the English defence on the half-hour, dummying his way to the line to retake the lead. Stephen Crichton added the extras to make it 10-6 at the break.
England, though, were not about to give this one up easily and John Bateman crossed just four minutes into the second-half after great work by Kallum Watkins to dislodge the ball from Lafai’s grasp.
But, Crichton dotted down moments later following an incredible last-tackle play that involved two miraculous offloads from Jarome Luai and Paulo. The centre converted for a 16-12 lead.
And Lafai was on hand to register his second just before the hour as Samoa continued to tear England apart.
But, with the Emirates Stadium in full voice, England hit back on 64 minutes as Herbie Farnworth bounced off six defenders to cross for an important score. Makinson’s conversion reduced the deficit to two at 20-18.
The St Helens winger levelled proceedings with a penalty, but Crichton picked off an England pass to run 60 metres and almost break England hearts. The Penrith star converted to make it 26-20 with six minutes to go.
George Williams, however, had other ideas and his incredible break three minutes from time enabled Farnworth to grab his second as Makinson converted to level the score at 26-26.
Going into Golden Point, Samoa held their nerve and Crichton slotted over the winning drop-goal to send Matt Parish’s men into the World Cup Final for the first time in their history.
Sam Tomkins, Dom Young, Kallum Watkins, Herbie Farnworth, Tommy Makinson, Jack Welsby, George Williams, Tom Burgess, Micky McIlorum, Chris Hill, Elliott Whitehead, John Bateman, Victor Radley. Subs (all used): Morgan Knowles, Luke Thompson, Mike Cooper, Mike McMeeken
Tries: Whitehead, Bateman, Farnworth 2
Goals: Makinson 5/5
Joseph Suaalii, Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Tim Lafai, Taylan May, Jarome Luai, Anthony Milford, Royce Hunt, Fa’amanu Brown, Junior Paulo (C), Ligi Sao, Jaydn Su’a, Oregon Kaufusi. Subs (all used): Chanel Harris-Tavita, Josh Papali’i, Spencer Leniu, Kelma Tuilagi
Tries: Lafai 2, Sao, Crichton 2
Goals: Crichton 3/5
Field goals: Crichton (84)
Referee: Grant Atkins
Scoring sequence: 0-4, 6-4, 6-10, 12-10, 12-16, 12-20, 18-20, 20-20, 20-26, 26-26, 26-27
Venue: Emirates Stadium, Arsenal