George Williams has described the moment of Stephen Crichton slotting a golden-point field goal over to sink the home nation in their semi-final clash with Samoa as a “nightmare” which will haunt him for the foreseeable future.
“Those ten seconds went so slow, it felt like it was going forever,” the halfback told The Mirror.
England and Samoa serve up a semi-final classic at the World Cup
After thrashing their opponents 60-6 in the tournament’s curtain-raiser a month earlier, England entered into the rematch as favourites.
MORE: Whose stocks have risen during RLWC 2021? | Crichton boots Samoa to historic victory
But they were under no illusion the pale substitution of the side they faced at St James’ Park would be the same version in the semi-final, when Tim Lafai opened the scoring after five minutes.
This then kicked off a chain reaction for the rest of the contest whereby one team would snatch the initiative only to surrender it once again within the blink of an eye.
Samoa perpetually pegging England back or edging out in front before the final 10 minutes of regulation time startled everyone upon its sudden arrival.
Crichton’s now trademark move in big matches for pick-pocketing an opposition sweep out the back and racing away with an intercept appeared to have been enough, until Herbie Farnworth bulldozed his way over the line with just two minutes remaining.
“When I scored, I definitely thought we’d go on to win,” the Brisbane centre admitted post-match.
Although this was never a game which wanted to adhere to the basic rules of momentum, as it lurched violently back and forth all afternoon, until Crichton collapsed under the weight of his team’s jubilant celebrations.
— NRL (@NRL) November 12, 2022
No sooner had Farnworth breathed new life into England’s World Cup hopes, they were stuck defending their own line with Anthony Milford eyeing up a drop goal from barely 20 metres out centre field.
Elliott Whitehead somehow managed to block that one by flinging whatever limbs he could at the ball and once again England looked like they may have been destined to prevail.
Yet a forward pass out of dummy-half from captain Sam Tomkins gifted the Samoans yet another shot at glory and this time Crichton made no mistake with the first one-pointer of his career sealing a historic win for his nation.
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Williams heartbroken as England reach the end of the line at the RLWC
“Watching that kick go over felt like a nightmare,” Williams said.
“We got to golden-point and panicked. We were our own worst enemy. They really played well but we didn’t deliver when it mattered.”
The Penrith star certainly did, with some deception in the ruck from Chanel Harris-Tavita diverting attention away from Crichton to line up the kick.
He slotted it over to send Samoa to the final, while becoming the first nation to gate-crash the traditional monopoly the ‘Big three’ of Australia, New Zealand and England have had over the tournament for over three decades.
Stephen Crichton the iceman! 🧊
— NRL (@NRL) November 12, 2022
Crichton revealing the routine had been lifted straight off the training paddock with practice making perfect in the most quantifiable means possible.
“I practice it every training session and you never know when these moments come around,” Crichton told NRL.com.
“I knew that if it did come around, like it did, that I had done the practice and done the work to slot it.
“I was just there on the right as an option for Milf. If they did pressure him that was the set-up that we planned.
“It got emotional with the boys on the field because it takes a lot to put our little country on the map.”
Meanwhile, it was contrasting emotions for Williams and his England teammates with the realisation that their journey had come to a shuddering halt.
“That will sit with us, especially me, for three years until the next World Cup,” Williams said of the 27-26 loss.
“That is the heartbreaking thing. Some people will never play a World Cup again. We will never have this certain group together which is why it hurts so much.”