Rugby League World Cup: The 10 best moments
It has been as exciting as it has been grueling, but the Rugby League World Cup approaches its three-match final over the weekend as France face England for the wheelchair title before Saturday’s double-header sees Australia aim to defend both the men’s and women’s sides. kroner against Samoa and New Zealand respectively.
But the 58 games that have brought us to this point have been full of excitement and mess that we won’t forget in a hurry.
Here are the 10 moments of the competition so far…
Opening Day Dominance (England Men v Samoa)
It feels like an eternity now, of course, but England v Samoa meant something completely different until Saturday. Before all the semi-final drama, England had absolutely hammered Samoa 60-6 on the opening day of the RLWC2021 at St James’ Park in front of 43,199 fans to get the triple-header event underway. It looked like the Wall of White was the real deal, but it turned out the Samoans were undercooked and playing the long game.
Reggae heaven (Jamaica men v New Zealand)
Not many consolation tries at 68-0 down live long in the memory, but this one will never be forgotten in Jamaica. The Reggae Warriors had been industrious throughout their one-sided hammering of the former world champions, but never seemed to get a reward in terms of points on the board. But then with five minutes to go a worn kick caused trouble on the Kiwi line and Ben Jones-Bishop broke in front before pouncing over for Jamaica’s first ever World Cup try. Absolute scenes.
Josh Addo-Carr’s trick-shot try (Australia Men v Scotland)
At 80-0 in the 79th minute, Australia’s Matt Burton would have been forgiven for letting a bouncing loose ball go out of play. Instead, he decided to bust a gut to keep it alive, scooping the ball between his legs as he sauntered off over the touchline. Behind him to collect was team-mate Josh Addo-Carr, who took the unorthodox pass, kicked perfectly beyond Scotland’s defense and chased it down to score in the corner. One for the ages.
O jogo bonito (Brazil Women v England)
Brazil had played two games ever before moving up at Headingley to face England in the opening match of the women’s tournament, so a zero scoreline would have been very much expected. However, Natalia Momberg had other ideas. She hung around the ruck long enough to collect Paula Casemiro’s offload as England turned her back, heading straight into the corner from 12 yards. The Amazons celebrated as if they had won the whole shebang.
The wheelchair event leaves its mark (England wheelchair v Australia)
With a world record crowd of 3,033 packed into the Copper Box Arena, England and Australia put on a huge wheelchair rugby league showcase that saw the event trend on Twitter. It wouldn’t be the last world record attendance, nor the last time the wheelchair game made it big on social media, with the indoor version of the sport becoming a cult hit.
Tonga and Samoa’s shared war dance (Tonga men v Samoa)
Pacific Islanders v Pacific Islanders. Emerging force v Emerging force. Sipi Tau versus Siva Tau. This was billed as the first real giant battle in the men’s event, and yet the edge was both aided and softened at the same time before kick-off as the two teams joined forces to join their opposing war dances. In turn, the two sets of players served up a treat that sent goosebumps around the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Leah Burke’s diving double (England Women v Papua New Guinea)
When Leah Burke stepped into the path of Courtney Winfield-Hill’s high kick in the first half of the Group A match at Headingley to level the scores, it was only a foretaste of the real show she would put on in the second stanza. After the break, another Winfield-Hill kick over the top was caught in full flight by the St Helens wing, who planted the ball over the line in the same movement. Not content with that, the pair combined for an identikit effort moments later to complete Burke’s hat-trick.
Jack Brown’s eight tries (England wheelchair v Wales)
Two of the three England teams on show at this World Cup saw their performance levels dip as they reached the semi-finals, but the country’s wheelchair athletes produced a dominant display to reach Friday’s final. The chief architect of their 125-22 thrashing of Wales was Jack Brown, whose eight – yes, count them – tries from the bench were the highlight of the hosts’ 22-try performance.
A semi-final stunner (Australia Men v New Zealand)
If there’s been a more intense, pulsating game of international sport in the last decade, we haven’t seen it (unless, perhaps, you argue the 2017 RLWC final). With the stakes high, the quality was even higher in an incredible 80 minutes, with both of the game’s traditional giants delivering easily their most complete performances of the tournament. The Kiwis somehow hung on in a high-pressure second half to give themselves late hope, but their 16-14 loss will go down as one of the World Cup’s all-time great contests.
Stephen Crichton’s history-making drop goal (Samoa men v England)
Few expected Samoa to be such a dramatic failure in the opening match, but when they met England again in the semi-final they looked as sharp as ever. And they led for most of the Emirates Stadium contest, only for the hosts to peg them back on four separate occasions. Even when Stephen Crichton broke away to score an interception try to put them up 26-20 with five minutes remaining, England still had time to equalise. But Crichton’s huge drop goal – the first of his career – from 30 yards out in the fourth minute of extra time with a golden point will go down in history, with Samoa heading to the finals for the first time ever.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds are subject to change