19 Nov 2022
Five things we learned as Australia overcome Samoa for third straight men’s Rugby League World Cup title
The Kangaroos overpowered the Pacific Islanders 30-10 in Manchester to secure their ninth triumph in the last ten tournaments
By Josh Graham at Old Trafford
James Tedesco provided a captain’s performance to savour as his double helped Australia defeat Samoa 30-10 and defend their men’s Rugby League World Cup crown.
The full-back has shouldered the hopes of a nation over the past six weeks and stepped up when it mattered at Old Trafford, leading his side past stubborn opposition who stayed in the fight until the final hooter.
Latrell Mitchell and Liam Martin crossed along with Tedesco in the first half, with the skipper following up Cameron Murray’s try after the break to make the game safe before Mitchell's second at the death sparked the celebrations.
Brian To’o and Stephen Crichton replied for a spirited Samoa but the Kangaroos’ ruthlessness ensured that, just as in 2000 and 2013, they reigned supreme at the Theatre of Dreams.
Here are five things we learned from the 61st and final game at Rugby League World Cup 2021.
?? Cam Murray finds the gap in the Samoa defence and Australia are over again!
Can Samoa get back into this game or are the Kangaroos heading for a three-peat?#RLWC2021 | #AUSSAM | @BBCSport pic.twitter.com/1mOSFK3Ate
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) November 19, 2022
Australia are no flat-track bullies
Australia have cruised to World Cup titles in years gone by without so much as the slightest whiff of trouble, but this has not been one of those instances.
The Kangaroos cannot be accused of being flat-track bullies despite racking up the points in the group stage and blitzing quarter-final opponents Lebanon in the first half.
Their 16-14 semi-final triumph over New Zealand at Elland Road will go down in the annals as an all-time classic.
At no stage did the Kangaroos look certain of their place in the final but they gritted their teeth and ground out the result against a spirited Kiwis who had two Peta Hiku tries scrubbed off in the second half.
More hardship followed here at Old Trafford when Angus Crichton was sin-binned for leading with his elbow into Chanel Harris-Tavita’s neck.
The Pacific Islanders piled on the pressure but the Kangaroos never buckled, even extending their lead through Cameron Murray’s score before returning to a full complement.
Start the Addo-Carr
It still beggars belief that Josh Addo-Carr was deemed surplus to State of Origin requirements for New South Wales this year.
? Wow - Josh Addo-Carr does it again!
The Foxx puts his foot down to break the Samoa line, and sends James Tedesco over to score.
Australia are 10-0 up after 20 minutes.#RLWC2021 | #AUSSAM | @BBCSport pic.twitter.com/gnDZFGlGFE
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) November 19, 2022
The Foxx has lit up this tournament with his electric pace, infectious personality and high-quality skills, often popping up with a decisive contribution just when Australia needed it most.
And he delivered again on the big stage with his searing break from first receiver back in behind the ruck allowing Tedesco to open up a 10-0 lead inside the opening quarter.
The Foxx showed off his box of tricks with a lovely grubber after making a break down the left wing which would have led to a try if Crichton had been able to ground the ball in the in-goal.
There may not have been a 13th try of the tournament for the Canterbury Bulldogs flier but scoring 12 to level teammate Valentine Holmes’ record for most in a single World Cup is no mean feat.
The master trumps the apprentice
Skipper Tedesco has not been at his absolute scintillating best over the last five weeks but saved his best performance for last.
The Sydney Roosters full-back has watched on at this tournament as clubmates Joey Manu and Joseph Suaalii have excelled in the No.1 jersey for New Zealand and Samoa respectively.
But the 29-year-old demonstrated he still has the edge over 19-year-old Suaalii in the final, the heartbeat of Mal Meninga’s side proving nigh on impossible to tackle.
Tedesco got Australia’s crucial second try after running a trademark inside support line before being put away by Addo-Carr to ensure there would be no early nervous moments for the defending champions.
And just when Samoa were threatening a comeback after To’o’s try, Tedesco was the one to get Australia back on track as he sprinted over on the left edge for his second of the afternoon.
Conversely, things never seemed to click for Suaalii, his offload for Taylan May drifting forward with the tryline begging just after Australia had been reduced to 12 following Crichton’s sin-binning.
Meanwhile, Tedesco used all of his experience to expertly marshal his defence from the back and ended the day by deservedly hoisting the trophy aloft.
Time needed to dethrone Kangaroos
Samoa’s remarkable recovery from that opening 60-6 demolition by England to reach the World Cup final is a story fit for Hollywood.
Add in the desire of the likes of Panthers stars Jarome Luai and To’o to represent their heritage when Meninga was ready to pick up the phone to hand them a green and gold jersey and it is a ringing endorsement for the burgeoning breadth of the international game.
Having said that, it was always going to be a big ask for a side to dethrone the Kangaroos who have now won nine out of the last ten editions of the World Cup.
However, Samoa have certainly laid the foundations for other sides to grow in strength and belief that they too can upset the apple cart at the top table of international rugby league in years to come.
Samoa lose but international game wins
Matt Parish’s Samoa may have come unstuck at the final hurdle but their historic run to the Old Trafford showpiece will leave a lasting legacy.
Stephen Crichton’s golden point field goal broke English hearts in the semi-final and sent Samoa into uncharted territory as the first tier two side to make the Rugby League World Cup final.
That result sent the country into overdrive with parades on top of more parades at home while Samoans all over the world flocked to celebrate their side’s stunning achievement.
this is Samoa currently. Proud Nation?? 685 pic.twitter.com/S1d0ccQX9S
— Hati? (@hati_devoux) November 12, 2022
The vast majority of a deafening 67,502 fans packed into the Theatre of the Dreams were egging the underdogs on, with an array of Samoan flags constantly on show and vociferous booing of the Kangaroos a regular feature.
The international game has seen what the strength of nations outside the dominant trio of Australia, New Zealand and England can do for the game and integrity of the competition.
Samoa’s stars were inspired by Tonga’s terrific run to the last four in 2017 and having gone one better can be the flagbearers for the international game moving forward if the requisite fixtures are put in place.
Player welfare rightfully dominates the discourse but it would be a great shame if fans were not treated to regular high-profiles clashes between the best sides in the world to capitalise on this fantastic tournament.