Greg Inglis and Cooper Crock shared four of Australia’s eight tries in a 44-18 win over Samoa to seal a place opposite New Zealand in the final of rugby league’s Four Nations Championship.
New Zealand clinched its finals spot with a 16-14 win over England on Saturday, which left it unbeaten in round-robin play after a 30-12 win over Australia and 14-12 win over Samoa.
Australia needed to win Sunday’s match to avoid missing the final for the first time in 60 years. Samoa would have gone through with a win by eight points or more and England would have reached the final if Samoa had won by fewer than eight points.
Australia eliminated those possibilities with its best performance of the tournament, scoring five tries to take a 28-6 halftime lead.
Australia was much more confident and effective in possession Sunday than in had been in its loss to New Zealand and a contentious 16-12 win over England.
Cronk scored the first of his tries in only the second minute to lift any early pressure from the Kangaroos and Inglis’ first gave them a 10-0 lead in even time.
Samoa hit back with the first of its tries, to Tim Simona, to cut the lead to 10-6 midway through the first half. But Australia broke away in the next 20 minutes with Inglis’ second try and others to Daly Cherry-Evans and David Klemmer to take a decisive lead to halftime.
Cherry-Evans’ was probably the best try of the match: he sold a dummy on the short side of a defensive scrum and sprinted 70 meters through a disordered defense to score. Klemmer came off the bench to make a major impact, highlighted by his 34th-minute try.
Samoa cut the lead to 28-12 after six minutes of the second half with a try to Ben Roberts and, after Australia had pulled ahead with Cronk’s second try, rallied again with a try to David Fa’alongo.
Australia inflated its winning margin with tries in the last five minutes to Josh Papali’i and Josh Mansour.
The final will be played Saturday in Wellington. AP
Australia 44 (Cooper Cronk 2, Greg Inglis 2, Daly Cherry-Evans, David Klemmer, Josh Popali’i, Josh Mansour tries; Cameron Smith 4 goals; Daly Cherry-Evans 2 goals), Samoa 18 (Tim Simona, Ben Roberts, David Fa’alogo tries; Tim Lafai 3 goals). HT: 28-6.