venue: Parramatta Stadium, Sydney
5th November 2008
Full Match Report
RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP GROUP C
Ireland clinched a surprise place in the World Cup semi-final qualifier after a thrilling victory over Samoa. The Irish needed to win by six points or more and they held their nerve with some superb defence after withstanding some early Samoa pressure.
Wigan's Pat Richards was the star of the show, scoring a hat-trick and kicking a further 10 points. Simon Finnigan, Sean Gleeson and Liam Finn also crossed to send their opponents out of the competition. Samoa piled the pressure on Ireland from the start and Andy Kelly's side failed to help their cause by conceding a number of penalties close to the line.
They were handed a large bit of luck when Tony Puletua was denied a try by video referee Steve Ganson for obstruction by Harrison Hansen, but, after weathering the storm, two quick tries put them in control. First, Lee Doran's high kick was touched down by Richards on 13 minutes and then, moments later, Bob Beswick broke through the Samoa defence and passed inside to Finnigan. Things got even better when a Finn kick was spilled by Francis Meli and Gleeson got a hand to the ball to ground it and, after missing his first two kicks, Richards added the extras to put them 14-0 up.
Samoa were more impressive in attack and it was no surprise when they came back into the game on 24 minutes after the Irish defence failed to deal with Ben Roberts's high kick and Nigel Vagana capitalised to score. A penalty by Wayne Kerr put more pressure on the Irish line and Misi Taulapapa went over to cut the Irish lead and Roberts again converted before a Richards penalty put a bit more daylight between the sides at the break.
After their slow start to the first half, Ireland started the second half strongly and Richards grounded Karl Fitzpatrick's high looping pass for his second try of the game. Once again he was unable to add the extras but the Wigan star was successful six minutes later with a penalty.
The Irish thought they had scored again when winger Damien Blanch, hat-trick hero in last week's 22-20 defeat by Tonga, went 80 metres after gathering a loose ball only to be brought back for a knock-on. Samoa saw captain Nigel Vagana limp off with a knee problem and as tension grew, they lost their discipline and Richards made them pay with two more penalties before Finn scored after seizing on a defensive error on 70 minutes.
Bradford forward David Solomona, who was put on report for a high tackle on Gleeson, pulled a try back in the closing stages, but Richards had the final say when he dived on a loose ball to complete his hat-trick and seal the victory.
Platt, Blanch, Gleeson, Littler, Richards, Grix, Finn, O'Carroll, Beswick, Haggerty, Harrison, Doran, Finnigan. Replacements: McIlorum, Fitzpatrick, Kerr, Tandy.
Samau, Utai, Talau, Carmont, Meli, Vagana, Roberts, McDade, Seuseu, T. Puletua, Setu, Lauitiiti, Hansen. Replacements: Solomona, F. Puletua, Paulo, Taulapapa.