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England top Tonga to make RLWC final, but not without controversy

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    Please pardon the embellishments from the writer in this match report, however, the semi-final between England and Tonga in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup was the best two hours of Rugby League possible, only stifled by atrocious refereeing.

    Tonga came to Mount Smart Stadium on a mission and started well. Unfortunately for them, it became apparent that the English had come with a point to prove as well.

    A fast start for Tonga was matched be excellent defence and Gareth Widdop controlled the first quarter of the game with deft passing and astute kicking.

    No matter what the Tongans threw at England, they appeared to have the answer. Poor decisions from Will Hopoate and Andrew Fifita left them scoreless at half-time despite, looking dangerous throughout the first period.

    John Bateman’s try extended the lead to eighteen and a penalty goal to Widdop seemed to put the icing on the cake.

    Astonishingly, Tonga found another gear and rattled off three tries in ten minutes. Some might suggest it was four after Andrew Fifita hit the line in the final minute only to see the ball raked from his grasp.

    He re-gathered and scored, yet Matt Checchin who was poor all day, ignored the big Tongan front-rower, despite his pleas for a try.

    What harm there was in going to the video ref is hard to fathom and surely in such a big game it was the prudent decision.

    A shame that such a wonderful defensive effort from England and a determined comeback from Tonga have been tarnished by officialdom and the World Cup Semi-Final will always be remembered as the day Tonga were dealt with a little unfairly.

    What a game of football, it had everything. Tension, drama, atmosphere and two teams playing for every fibre of their being. It was a pleasure to watch.

    Final Score
    Tonga 18
    England 20

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (133)

    • November 25th 2017 @ 7:13pm
      Joe said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:13pm | ! Report

      RIGGED !!! Hows does a Aussie Reff the game & Have a England Reff in the Bunker LoL

      • November 25th 2017 @ 7:24pm
        john williams said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:24pm | ! Report

        that’s rugby league for you aussie England own the code always have always will what other code has there own refs running all the big games if it was the other way round they would wood be calling every one cheats

    • November 25th 2017 @ 7:19pm
      Lovey said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:19pm | ! Report

      Yep, the ball was stripped.

    • Roar Guru

      November 25th 2017 @ 7:19pm said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:19pm | ! Report

      What is all the fuss? It was a loose carry, plane and simple. Congrats to the ref for calling what he saw. He was in a great position and clearly was 100% convinced it was a loose carry. I agree after watching it several times.

      • November 25th 2017 @ 7:29pm
        Fox Lvy said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:29pm | ! Report

        poor Tonga, they play their hearts, give their all but it is hard because there are 17 players at the side of the field..

      • Roar Guru

        November 25th 2017 @ 8:37pm
        Renegade said | November 25th 2017 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

        Absolutely agree Scott.

        People getting all emotional about it…. Benji and Laurie carrying on during the coverage because they tipped Tonga was amateurish… it was a loose carry every day of the week.

        That said, considering the enormity of the game – Cecchin should have probably went to the video for it to only be ruled the same.

      • Roar Guru

        November 25th 2017 @ 9:59pm
        Sleiman Azizi said | November 25th 2017 @ 9:59pm | ! Report

        When I first saw the replay during the match I thought that Tonga had been robbed.

        But after viewing the footage several times since, I think the referee made the right decision.

        The irony is that Fifita, had he simply shown more respect for the ball, would more than likely have crashed over to score anyway.

        Ah, sport can be cruel.

        In anycase, it was an incredible match on so many levels.

      • November 26th 2017 @ 5:37am
        Frank daTank said | November 26th 2017 @ 5:37am | ! Report

        A loose carry you dont know what you are talking about obviously following text Tonga got robbed ref making several bad calls this day will always be remembered in our hearts MMT Tonga won the game but got cheated Tonga keep building we are all proud of you guys

      • November 26th 2017 @ 9:21am
        Peter Phelps said | November 26th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        I also saw a repeat of the Grand Final reffing where the refs scheme to ensure that neither side ends up scoreless. In this case, that first try sparked an unbelievable Tonga come back and all due respect to them but I am very worried about this apparent “manipulating of results” by the refs.

        • Roar Guru

          November 26th 2017 @ 9:51am
          Renegade said | November 26th 2017 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          Who actually thinks they are manipulating results?? Seriously….

          • November 26th 2017 @ 4:32pm
            Peter Phelps said | November 26th 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

            I do.

            Its as if there is a politically correctness rule somewhere that implores refs to ensure that no team goes home pointless in a final. In yesterdays game and in the GF, the ref suddenly gives repeated penalties in the opposition red zone to the team showing nil on the score board. It was more obvious in the GF than in the England Tonga game but it was there.

            If I am right then this is something that has to be stamped out. It turned the tide yesterday and could have changed the result.

            Just a very concerned fan.

          • November 27th 2017 @ 12:04pm
            Dave_S said | November 27th 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

            Sadly, people who are also allowed to vote in elections

      • November 26th 2017 @ 9:17pm
        Matt Hamilton said | November 26th 2017 @ 9:17pm | ! Report

        Why couldn’t he call any of the other tries earlier in the game as he saw them? Some right under his nose yet a play he was well behind and less visible he opts to ” call what he saw”. He then disregarded the advice of his touch judge even though his view of the play was unobstructed. You must be a referee

      • Roar Guru

        November 27th 2017 @ 7:45pm
        Fox said | November 27th 2017 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

        Everyone who wanted an England Australian final for ratings – which is many – would agree the decision was spot on of course – but the ball was clearly raked out – but the TV networks and the powers that be got the final they, and their sponsors wanted…the ref knew the call he had to make and be under no illusions about the power of networks and sponsors, I worked in TV and radio for several years and I could tell you some stories that would make your jaw drop believe me .

        No he wasn’t told – that would be point blank rigging – but he knew what he had to do in the 50/50 call ( if you can call it that decision) as we all did.

        Tonga got shafted for corporate dollars and I am not one who jumps to conspiracy theories but that decision stank so bad you could smell it in England where the networks and sponsors smelt money and ratings. The ref did a great job for all concerned except Tonga.

        It was raked back and down hard meaning the raking players body weight and the motion of his arm puling down and backwards was a counter force to the player running forward so too much pressure came on the carrier in the counter force as anyone who has half a brain about physics could tell you – it was not a lose carry at all – it was raked out and down.

        Well the final is now a promoters dream is it not – they can make ten adds about the historical rivalry etc etc – and I can assure you that many would be in the making before the semi trust me and especially with the kiwi’s playing such crap footy – the final would have been seen as a given once they got knocked out – just ask the bookies – the odds for an Australian v England final was not even worth the price of the bet once the kiwis were eliminated..

        Yep that decision was only ever going to go one way. Tonga were standing with England in a advertising ratings money pit – but only one team held the big cheque book.

        • November 27th 2017 @ 8:24pm
          Justin Kearney said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:24pm | ! Report

          So fox the ref consciously was aware that if in the 79th minute tonga had come back from 20 nil down he was obliged to disallow the try that would have won them the game? Yep. Perfectly logical. Good grief.

        • Roar Guru

          November 27th 2017 @ 10:42pm
          Sleiman Azizi said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:42pm | ! Report

          “…I am not one who jumps to conspiracy theories but that decision stank so bad…”

          Your whole comment was about a conspiracy theory, lol.

    • November 25th 2017 @ 7:22pm
      Dean said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:22pm | ! Report

      Tonga were very hard done by. Ceccin should never referee another international. That was definitely a try to Fifita. It smacks of the tournament organisers deciding England will be in the final regardless. I would not like being the English players having to front Bennett after that Tongan finish.

      • November 25th 2017 @ 9:01pm
        Martin Millard said | November 25th 2017 @ 9:01pm | ! Report

        It was borderline impossible for Whitehead to strip the ball from the angle he tackled Fifita from, it was a massive loose carry. I wanted to see a Tonga vs Australia final as you would have had Tongans flying from all over to get there. The decision was fine but it should have gone upstairs just for clarification, left a bad taste in everyones mouths with Ceccin not checking it

        • Roar Guru

          November 25th 2017 @ 10:16pm
          Sleiman Azizi said | November 25th 2017 @ 10:16pm | ! Report

          Fifita came surging past and Whitehead simply stuck out his arm to tackle and his hand landed on the ball.

          Had Fifita carried the ball with more respect he probably would have crashed over to score anyway.

          Ah, the cruel irony of sport!

    • November 25th 2017 @ 7:23pm
      Kiwijack said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

      Agree Tonga were ripped off by another useless Aussie ref. Last nights game was similar these games are rigged.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 25th 2017 @ 7:28pm
        marty beauchamp said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

        I agree, Tonga was ripped off. Peter Stirling and others point out during the season how often those calls are made correctly as strips, and play on, when they are in the middle of the field and there is no real impact on the game. It happens like this, in the clutch and suddenly it’s a loose carry.

      • November 25th 2017 @ 7:39pm
        Worlds Biggest said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:39pm | ! Report

        Bit hard to mount a conspiracy argument when the Kangaroos won by 50 !?

      • November 25th 2017 @ 9:06pm
        republican said | November 25th 2017 @ 9:06pm | ! Report

        ……not sure that this conspiracy theory is exclusive to Australian refs et el but the almighty tele dollar will probably ensure that the script be adhered to, for obvious reasons.
        Elite sport is a slave to the multi national television networks, so the best we can do is – tun it off………

    • November 25th 2017 @ 7:27pm
      SAVAGE said | November 25th 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

      Why didn’t he go upstairs to the TMO? He went to the TMO enough times during the game, why didn’t he seek advice for the last play? Rigged, no other way to look at it.

      • November 26th 2017 @ 8:03am
        Mike from tari said | November 26th 2017 @ 8:03am | ! Report

        We don’t have a TMO in Rugby League, so you are definitely not a League supporter.

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