The final game of a great tournament, the last competitive game of the 2022 season, and the World Cup Final, pitched the hottest of hot favourites Australia against rank outsiders, underdogs, and surprise finalists Samoa.
Australia were unchanged from the side which beat New Zealand in the semi-final while Samoa made a number of enforced and tactical changes as they looked to peak in the most important game of their lives.
Australia had been handicapped by fourteen points on the coupon, but it would be a foolish person who underestimated a Samoan side that was packed full of NRL superstars, all of whom were dedicated and determined to spring one of the biggest rugby league surprises of all time.
The opening ten minutes were even between two sides high on adrenalin, the Aussies getting the rub of the referee’s decisions, Samoa feeling a little hard done by.
On thirteen the Kangaroos opened the scoring with Lattrell Mitchell completing a right to left passing move when he went in from ten metres out. Nathan Cleary was well short with his conversion attempt, but the Aussies were off and running.
On seventeen James Addo-Carr broke through the Samoan defence on halfway before finding James Tedesco in support to take the pass and sprint under the sticks from thirty metres out for the second try. This time Cleary hit the mark for a 10-0 lead.
Mitchell went close to a second try on twenty-four but lost the ball on the line as he stretched to score.
Chanel Harris-Tavita was held up over the line on twenty-seven but after spilling the ball on the next tackle Australia worked the ball downfield with Liam Martin forcing the ball onto the ground after spotting, and going through, the smallest of gaps. Cleary couldn´t convert from wide.
The game was crying out for a Samoan score but instead it got a yellow card on forty-six when Angus Crichton was sin-binned for and elbow to the head of Chanel Harris-Tavita who was helped from the field, his World Cup final over.
The twelve men killed the game on fifty-two, Cameron Murray taking a Nathan Cleary pass after a Munster ball steal for a ten-metre dart to the line to dove over and score. Cleary added the conversion for 20-0.
Samoa avoided being nilled on the hour mark when Brian To´o benefitted from a Luia break and a looping pass which found its way onto the wing for the winger to score. Stephen Crichton added the conversion from the touchline for 6-20.
Normal business resumed on sixty-seven, James Tedesco finding a gap after taking a Cam Munster pass on the angle and running a diagonal line to ground ten metres in from the corner flag. Cleary´s conversion shaved the inside of the post as it went over for 26-6.
On seventy Stephen Crichton intercepted a wayward pass forty out and sprinted for the line to get the second Samoan try of the night, scoring by the right corner flag. Crichton hit the far upright with his conversion attempt, Samoa 10-26 behind.
Inside the last minute a great pass from Cleary found Lattrell Mitchell to go through a big gap in the Samoan defence to dive over. Addo-Carr atempted the conversion but missed the target, Australia with a 30-10 win.
Australia lived up to their pre-match billing, and while it was no walk in the park, they won convincingly to win the World Cup, their third consecutive victory in most prestigious game in the sport. Australia were good value for their win as they completed the Aussie double, both the men and women winning today to become joint World Champions.
Australia: Tedesco (2T), Holmes, Wighton, Mitchell (2T), Addo-Carr, Munster, Cleary (3G), Trbojevic, Hunt, Campbell-Gillard, Crichton (SB on 46), Martin (T), Yeo. Subs: Grant, Carrigan, Murray (T), Fa´asuamaleaui.
Samoa: Suaali´i, To´o (T), Crichton (T, G), Lafai, May, Luai, Milford, Hunt, Harris-Tavita. Paulo, Su´a, Sao, Kaufusi. Subs: Tuilagi, Papali´i, Leniu, Taupa´u.
Score Progression: 4-0, 8-0, 10-0, 14-0 : HT : (SB), 18-0, 20-0, 20-4, 20-6, 24-6, 26-6, 26-10, 30-10 : FT .
Lead Exchanges: Australia.
Referee: Ashley Klein.
Attendance: 67,502 at Old Trafford, Manchester.