The Rugby League World Cup comes down to this: Samoa v Australia in a history-making final few saw coming when the tournament kicked off six weeks ago.
In a Rugby League World Cup that has seen too many people that didn’t watch the pool matches moan about predictability and blowouts, Toa Samoa will play in their first-ever final after beating England 27-26. It’s a testament to both the recent and potential future growth of international rugby league. While Australia’s appearance in the Final is a little bit more expected, they were forced to work hard to get there by a Kiwis team that will be kicking themselves all the way home. The Kangaroos scraped to a 16-14 win in a match the Kiwis were arguably the better team overall.
This is a new week, though. There will be no complacency in this Kangaroos side. They’re all too familiar with the majority of the Samoan side given the NRL experience within it. The Panthers contingent makes them particularly dangerous. Still, the Kangaroos are heavy favourites and expect to lift the trophy to finish what has been an absorbing Rugby League World Cup.
How Can Samoa Cause An Upset?
Out at $3.25 against England last week, Toa Samoa are massive $7.10 outsiders in this one for a reason. The Kangaroos, despite what the official rankings say, are the best team in the world and looked destined to win another Rugby League World Cup. However, Samoa will have seen the Kiwis blueprint in the semi-final. While it didn’t end in victory for Madge Maguire’s side, the path is there for a team that can play out the full 80 minutes.
Man, the Kiwis had the squad and the blueprint to win that but you can’t switch off for a second against the Kangaroos.
One lapse in concentration ended up as the difference.
Give us more of these games, please.#RLWC2021
— Jason Oliver (@JasonNRL) November 11, 2022
Crash the middle and defend with quick line speed. It’s easier said than done, but the Kiwis proved you can do it, even if one moment ended up costing them a place in the final. Samoa has the pack to compete through the centre third. In Jarome Luai, Anthony Milford and Joseph Sua’ali’i, they have the weapons in attack to strike when the opportunity comes. But as we saw with the Kiwis, it’s an 80-minute process. Switch off for one second and this Kangaroos side stacked with talent will pounce.
We will learn a lot about this game in the opening exchanges. If Samoa can work into an arm wrestle and begin to throw some doubt into the Kangaroos, this one could go down to the wire.
How Many Points & Where They Come From
For those that don’t remember, the last Rugby League World Cup Final featured only six points. All went to the Kangaroos in a low-secord but thrilling match. Given Samoa’s presence in this one and the expected blowout with the line set at 18.5 points, the Points Total has opened at 44.5 points.
Josh Addo-Carr on the Kangaroo’s left edge is the obvious avenue for points in this one. He leads the Rugby League World Cup in tries scored and was unlucky to miss out on the Golden Boot earlier in the week. All the way up the field, on the ground and in the air, Addo-Carr is a threat. For Samoa, the Stephen Crichton and Brian To’o combination on the right edge has the profile but it’s Tim Lafai and Taylan May on the left that lead the way with ten tries between them scored throughout the tournament.
Josh Addo-Carr is the #RLWC2021 Player of the Tournament.
— Sam Revill (@sam_revill15) November 11, 2022
Australia play with a high-powered attack. As the Kiwis found out, one lapse in concentration can be the difference. Samoa, on the other hand, have come this far by pouncing on opportunities. They will look to use their physicality in defence to turn the ball over and score shortly after. When it comes to moving a defensive line and manufacturing points across multiple sets, Samoa struggles. While Anthony Milford and Jarome Luai have played out impressive tournaments, they don’t break down a defence quite like Nathan Cleary or Cameron Munster. The Aussie pair will find space on the edges with the back-rowers likely to benefit.
The total is set at 44.5 points, and we can be confident in the Kangaroos scoring the majority.
It’s Australia’s to lose. Samoa have done an incredible job to get this deep into the Rugby League World Cup Final but everything needs to go right for them to win it from here. That includes the Kangaroos being off their game, and that appeared to happen last week. It’s unlikely that they repeat their error-ridden and clunky effort in the first half to allow the Kiwis to play from in front.
While Samoa have the pack to ride an early wave, the relentlessness of Australia should see them through in the end and see them take the trophy home.