World Cup Semi-Finals: Five things we learned

(Image credit - englandrl.co.uk)

There were a couple unforgettable moments in the semi-finals of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup at the weekend.

HOLMES PUTS TEAMS UNDER THE HAMMER

Australia battered Fiji 54-6 at the Brisbane Stadium on Friday and what stood out above anything else was the six tries that Valentine Holmes scored, yes, you read that right, SIX tries. He put in a brilliant performance and made scoring look easy. Some credit should probably go to his centre Josh Dugan as well, who has been excellent in the World Cup.

Holmes doesn’t do himself any favours though… he has previously stated that he wants to play at full-back rather than wing! But why? He scored five tries against Samoa in the quarter-finals and six against Fiji – 11 tries in two games. He’s a natural winger.

FIJI UNDERSOLD THEMSELVES

Fiji have been a shining light in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, alongside fellow Tier Two nation Tonga. They battered the USA, Wales and Italy in the group stage while they beat Tier One side New Zealand in the quarter-finals, continuing to make history.

But the Bati really undersold themselves against the Kangaroos in the semi-final. Fair enough, they weren’t expected to beat tournament favourites Australia, but they didn’t play like they had done in the previous weeks. It was a shame to see them not put the Aussies to the test but they have taken international Rugby League to the next level on the back of this World Cup.

THE HUNGER FOR RUGBY LEAGUE IN TONGA IS HUGE

Well, we might not have only learned that there is a huge appetite for Rugby League in Tonga this weekend, but the semi-final against England clearly showed that the sport has something special in that particular Pacific Island and something needs to be done about it.

Like Fiji, Tonga have made the World Cup this year really entertaining. They have proved that it isn’t just a three-horse race and played fantastically well. The passion is huge, the King of Tonga was present at the game and there were hymns being sung by fans in the stands! There were over 25,000 Tongans in attendance last Saturday. The Rugby League International Federation needs do something about it!

What New Zealand playing Tonga and Fiji facing Papua New Guinea on the weekend of State of Origin when New South Wales take on Queensland? The games would attract big numbers. We could be onto something very special with the Pacific Islanders.

ENGLAND HAVE THE TALENT TO BEAT AUSTRALIA

The Three Lions proved on Saturday that they have got the talent to beat the Kangaroos in the final this Saturday. The end scoreline was 20-18 to England in Auckland but Wayne Bennett’s side were dominant for 72 minutes against a Tonga team full of NRL players.

England were 20-0 up until Tonga scored three converted tries in the last eight minutes of the game. They were great for 70 minutes and they have a very good chance of lifting the trophy this weekend if they can play like they did but for the full 80 minutes. They have got the talent, they just need to show it on the biggest stage of them all now.

WIDDOP IS ONE OF THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE WORLD

England’s recent new-look has proved to be a great decision by head coach Bennett. Gareth Widdop has moved to full-back and is playing outstanding in the No. 1 jersey. Kevin Brown has come into the stand-off role and he allows scrum-half Luke Gale to play more freely. Widdop is clinical when coming out of the back and England always look a threat when the ball is in his hands.

The 28-year-old was voted Dally M Half-Back of the Year in the NRL last season, beating the likes of Cooper Cronk, Michael Morgan, James Maloney and Shaun Johnson to the award. He is certainly up there with being the best in the world at the minute and if he has another blinder on Saturday, then the Three Lions are in with a good chance of winning the tournament.

What did you learn from the semi-finals? Let us know in the comments below.

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