Rugby League World Cup: Samoa Can Make Kangaroos Jumpy in Final
It is a rare occurrence that the side responsible for eliminating the host nation in a semi-final of a World Cup will receive 99% of the support from the home crowd in the subsequent final, but that is what will happen at Old Trafford on Saturday at the Rugby League World Cup Final!
Samoa produced an outstanding display to break English hearts in extra time of last week's semi-final courtesy of a Stephen Crichton drop-goal, and will have the backing of the English support as they face off with the old enemy Australia for the honour of becoming World Champions. It is Samoa's first final in any major sport, ever, and the country will grind to a standstill to watch their heroes attempt to defy the odds again.
After last weekend's wonderful 55/1 winner on the England vs Samoa match being a draw, Billy Grimshaw is back with his last match preview of the tournament...
Rugby League World Cup Final - Australia vs Samoa Tips:
The Samoans are undoubtedly busted, battered and bruised heading into their first ever World Cup final but with the hopes of a nation on their shoulders the 17 men who take the field will be ready to give their absolute all for the cause. The danger with siding with Samoa on the handicap is that they could capitulate if falling behind, much like they did in Newcastle, however this is a different Samoan team and I just can't see a scenario in which this group, who have been through so much over the past few weeks together, fold even if the game is lost.
Australia are the best international team in the world and can run up a score on anybody on their day, but looked a yard or so off their best last time out.
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The Kangaroos were made to battle last week by New Zealand, eventually winning by just two points in the semi, and both teams are coming in off the back of their toughest game of the tournament. The Kiwis showed Samoa how to trouble Australia with some expansive rugby and daredevil offloading, a blueprint that Matt Parish will hope his men can follow. The Samoans have strike all over the park and although Australia are of course heavy odds-on favourites, I think the handicap line disrespects Samoa somewhat.
Australia will probably win the World Cup again (yawn) but expect Samoa to push them all the way and, who knows, if they are still in the mix come the hour mark the Manchester crowd will do their best to roar them home.
Trying to choose someone to back to score first in this game is like playing a who's who in the rugby league world of elite try-scoring machines. Australia's Josh Addo-Carr is favourite and rightly so after his freakish try-scoring feats at this tournament, while Brian To'o for Samoa is no stranger to a four pointer and can score from anywhere. Strike at full-back for both sides is provided by Sydney Roosters teammates James Tedesco (Australia) and Joseph Suaalii (Samoa) but it is in the centres I think some value can be found.
Latrell Mitchell is one of the best players in world rugby league and playing alongside Josh Addo-Carr down the Kangaroos' left edge they have formed one of the most deadly partnerships of the tournament. Mitchell is tempting in this market, and his centre partner is likely to be Jack Wighton for The Kangaroos. Wighton is a fine player but it is actually the man directly facing him I think looks overpriced to score the first try of the night.
Tim Lafai was unheard of at the start of this season, but has had a phenomenal year in Super League with Salford, making it into the Dream Team, before being a late call-up to Samoa's squad. He has started every game since being drafted into the squad at left centre and coming up against Wighton, a half back by trade for Canberra in the NRL, can exploit any defensive lapses from his opposite number. Lafai outclassed clubmate Kallum Watkins last time out in the semi-final and I think he can find a four pointer for Samoa in this match, hopefully the first one at odds of 22/1.
Attention will be drawn to Samoa's other centre Stephen Crichton, who was the hero last week in London, but it is Lafai who is worth chancing to get the scoreboard ticking at Old Trafford and to start Samoan fans (and the English cohort inside the stadium) dreaming of a massive final upset.