Emotional England coach Shaun Wane had no complaints after watching his side crash out of the Rugby League World Cup in a golden point semi-final defeat to Samoa at the Emirates Stadium.
Stephen Crichton’s nerveless drop goal sealed a 27-26 win for the Pacific islanders after a breathless and see-sawing clash, completing a remarkable turnaround after England’s 60-6 win in last month’s opening game of the tournament.
England’s performance was scattered with uncharacteristic errors, culminating in a forward pass from captain Sam Tomkins that ultimately allowed Samoa to set up Crichton to kick his side into their first World Cup final against Australia next week.
📰 Heartbreak as #EnglandRL lose World Cup Semi-Final to Samoa.
— England Rugby League (@England_RL) November 12, 2022
“We were not good enough and they were the better team,” admitted Wane. “What our players have done in this tournament has been outstanding but we have just not done those small details today which cost us dearly.
“We needed a bit of composure and we needed to do things that worked for us and we went away from that a bit. That’s down to me and the staff – and the first people we’ll look at is ourselves.”
Wane shrugged off suggestions that Samoa captain Junior Paulo could have been sent off for a first-half spear tackle on Tom Burgess, and also accepted the marginal forward pass that enabled the Samoans to make history.
“I think it was a forward pass,” said Wane, sitting alongside a stony-faced Tomkins. “It was a poor error and it was not good enough. We have to be better, no question. Sam won’t accept it and I won’t accept it and neither will the players. They’re hurting at the minute.”
Tomkins echoed Wane’s view that errors cost his side their chance of setting up a final clash against the Kangaroos, admitting: “We’ll just be talking about the errors and mistakes we made that put us under pressure.
“We were playing against a very good Samoa side and when you give opportunities to a side like that, they are going to get you in the end.
“There’s a lot of disappointed men in that room and that disappointment won’t go quickly, I promise you that.”
Samoa coach Matt Parish hailed the magnitude of his side’s feat in reaching their first final, and referenced the negative reaction to their opening-day defeat.
“Inspiration, passionate – that’s what this team is about,” said Parish, who has endured a testy relationship with the media since the start of the tournament.
Australia v Samoa in the men's Rugby League World Cup 2021 final – it's going to be special!
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) November 12, 2022
“It’s an unbelievable effort from these guys. We’ve had a few things go against us, we’re down to the bare bones and these guys keep turning up for one another.
“Plenty of people had a lot to say four weeks ago about us going on planes home, but the pride and belief and the passion in this group is just phenomenal.
“It is inspirational. To put Samoa in a World Cup final, that tiny little dot in the middle of the Pacific, is just incredible.”