Rugby League World Cup 2013: NZ beat England to reach final

By Paul FletcherBBC Sport at Wembley
Highlights: New Zealand 20-18 England

Shaun Johnson scored a sensational last-minute try as defending champions New Zealand knocked out England to win a thrilling World Cup semi-final at Wembley.

England were seconds from victory when the New Zealand Warrior eluded two players to score and then added the decisive conversion with the last kick of the match.

Sean O'Loughlin, Kallum Watkins and Sam Burgess had scored tries for England, while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck crossed twice for the Kiwis.

New Zealand will play Australia in the final at Old Trafford next Saturday after the Kangaroos trounced Fiji 64-0.

Miracle pass leads to Kiwi comeback

It was a classic, absorbing match played in front of a passionate crowd, but for the third World Cup in succession England depart at the semi-final stage after losing to the Kiwis.

But this was much closer - and much more gut-wrenching - then the decisive defeats in 2000 and 2008.

Steve McNamara's England had defended their line superbly during the match in what was undoubtedly their best performance of the tournament.

And it looked like they would hold on after going in front with 13 minutes left but a high tackle from George Burgess on Sonny Bill Williams gave the Kiwis one final chance from which Johnson struck.

It means that England's campaign ultimately ends in disappointment - with both of their games against the southern hemisphere super-powers of Australia and New Zealand ending in defeat.

Yet England will feel that they ought to have won what was a brutal semi-final from the very off, Kiwi prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves colliding with the immense Sam Burgess with the first carry of the game.

Twice England's defence saw off three consecutive sets from the Kiwis, who had blitzed all their opponents in the opening half of their previous four games at the tournament.

And England's reward was the game's opening try when Canterbury prop Graham, who had earlier sprinted 70 yards to help prevent a Kiwi try, passed for man of the match Sam Burgess to crash into Shaun Johnson before off-loading for O'Loughlin to score.

Sinfield added the extras and extended the home team's lead when he kicked a penalty shortly after the midway point in the opening half.

The Wembley crowd had really got behind the host nation but everyone inside the national stadium could surely not help but admire the breath-taking piece of skill that led to the Kiwis' opening try.

Stephen Kearney's team had already worked the ball out to the left and, thanks to a long, rangy pass from brilliant hooker Isaac Luke, they switched it in desperation to the right.

The ball seemed destined to go out of play but Dean Whare's incredible flick to keep the ball in play allowed Tuivasa-Sheck to score his seventh try of the tournament.

Johnson added the extras and, in a move that showed just how tight the match was, kicked a penalty to level the scores at the break.

New Zealand started the second half as they did the first - on the front foot, with three consecutive sets - but this time they made it count on the scoreboard.

Defeat leaves England 'bitterly disappointed'

Ryan Hall, with eight tries going into the match, came out of the line but failed to intercept a pass from full-back Kevin Locke and Tuivasa-Sheck touched down for his second try of the contest.

The Kiwis continued to build impressive pressure - helped by England conceding a series of needless penalties - and moved six points clear when Johnson kicked another penalty.

Finally, however, England built some pressure and, roared on by the partisan crowd, scored when Watkins ran on to Sinfield's brilliant flat pass but the captain pulled his conversion attempt - which ultimately proved to be very costly - as the Kiwis retained a slender two-point advantage.

Hall might have put England ahead again after he came up with the ball following a scrappy period of play with 15 minutes left but the Leeds winger slipped as he ran towards the line.

But the try did come after England forced a repeat set, Sinfield's brilliant delayed pass collected by the peerless Sam Burgess, who powered over from 20 yards.

England led 18-14 with 13 minutes left after Sinfield added the extras and the game would have been over as a contest if Hall had held on to an attempted intercept close to his own line with the wide open space of Wembley in front of him.

By now the Kiwis were trying to push ambitious plays all over the park but they seemed to have run out of answers when they were gifted one last chance, from which Johnson broke English hearts and secured a stunning victory.

England: Tomkins, Charnley, Watkins, Cudjoe, Hall, Widdop, Sinfield, Graham, Roby, S. Burgess, Ferres, Westwood, O'Loughlin. Replacements: Burrow, G. Burgess, Hill, Ablett.

New Zealand: Locke, Tuivasa-Sheck, Whare, Goodwin, Nightingale, Foran, Johnson, Waerea-Hargreaves, Luke, Bromwich, Mannering, Williams, Taylor. Replacements: Nuuausala, Kasiano, Matulino, Glenn.

Referee: Ben Cummins (Australia)

For a gallery of images from the Rugby League World Cup semi-finals at Wembley, go to the BBC Sport Facebook page. external-link


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