The Rugby League World Cup Final is set for this Sunday morning (AEST). Heavy favourites Australia are slated to claim their 12th World Cup out of 16 appearances. However, it is the other team that is grabbing all the headlines.
Samoa has a population of just over 200,000, which is over 128 times smaller in population than Australia, which has a population of over 25 million. Yet, on the back of some Penrith Panthers superstars like Jarome Luai, Stephen Crichton, Brian To’o, and emerging Sydney Roosters young gun Joseph Suaalii, Samoa is attempting to create not only the biggest sporting victory in the country’s history, but a win against Australia will go down as one of the biggest sporting victories of all time in any sporting code.
Looking at both sides World Cup campaigns so far, Australia cruised to the semi-finals with victories over Fiji, Scotland, Italy and Lebanon. Then came the Kiwis in the semi-final who tested the Aussies to their brink. Australia looked vulnerable in that game against New Zealand, and some would argue that New Zealand were the better team on the day, but just did not come away with the win.
On the other hand, we have Samoa. After getting trounced in the opening game 60 – 6 against England, that game seems like years ago after the way the Samoans have played since. Massive wins against Greece and France in their next two saw the Samoans clash with their arch rivals Tonga in the Quarter Finals. Tonga, on the same trajectory in the world rugby league sphere as Samoa with an abundance of NRL talent on board, was going to be a tough test. But the Samoans came through with the close victory 20 – 18. Then they faced cup hosts England, who overwhelmed the Samoans by 56 points a few weeks earlier.
Many had the Brits facing the Aussies in the Final, but superstars Luai and Crichton had other ideas. Luai was at his playmaking best, and in scenes reminiscent to the Panthers NRL Grand Final victory in 2021 against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Stephen Crichton intercepted a wayward pass to send the game into overtime. Then, Crichton pulled off the unthinkable and knocked the hosts out of the World Cup with a 30-metre field goal to win the game.
Comparing both teams’ campaigns, Samoa is the team on more of a roll going into the final. In a game that will see many of the Panthers stars like Luai, Crichton, To’o, Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo, and Liam Martin face off against each other, it is touted to be a must-see blockbuster.
Prediction: I think the Aussies will be too strong on the day, but will face a tough test against the Samoans who are on the roll of a lifetime.
Score: Australia 30 – Samoa 18.
Rugby League World Cup Final - 3:00am (AEDT)