‘For my people’: The inspiration behind Samoa’s World Cup win

Stephen Crichton

“For my people”.

Those three words written on Stephen Crichton’s wrist tape were the inspiration for his World Cup semi-final heroics, which included a rehearsed field goal ploy that earned Samoa an historic place in this weekend’s grand final against Australia at Old Trafford.

Crichton, who was born in Samoa and moved to Australia at two years of age, scored two tries and kicked three goals, as well as the golden point field goal, which broke the hearts of English fans in the 40,000 crowd at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in London.

“I just had ‘For my people’ written on my strapping tape,” Crichton said. “We have got a lot of fans all around the globe that are backing us, and we definitely see the marches they are doing back home.

“It was definitely for them, and I know they will be cheering back home. We see a lot of videos on social media, and it just motivates the boys and gives us a lot of love and support.”

Crichton finished one of the best tries of the tournament in the first half and scored an intercept try late in the match that many thought had secured Samoa’s first World Cup finals appearance, only for a Herbie Farnworth try to send the match into extra time.

After Elliott Whitehead charged down an attempted Anthony Milford field goal, Samoa looked to Crichton to step up and dummy half Chanel Harris-Tevita feigned to his halfback before passing to the Panthers centre.

Remarkably, Crichton said it was his first field goal, but he also revealed that the team had practiced the move at training on Friday.

“I practice it every training session and you never know when these moments come around,” Crichton said. “I knew that if it did come around I, 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.

“I thought I hit it short but just watching the ref to see what he was going to do; all of the emotions went out of it. It got emotional with the boys on the field because it takes a lot to put our little country on the map.”

Meanwhile, Samoa captain Junior Paulo has been cleared to play in the World Cup final against Australia after receiving a caution for a lifting tackle on England prop Tom Burgess.

Paulo, who successfully challenged a striking charge after last weekend’s historic defeat of Tonga, was sin-binned for the 13th minute incident but returned to lead Samoa to the biggest win by any Pacific nation after downing England 27-26 in golden point.

Fellow Samoa prop Royce Hunt also received a caution for his involvement in the tackle, while England forward Morgan Knowles received a one-match ban for dangerous contact and John Bateman was cautioned for contrary behaviour.

England coach Shaun Wane and Burgess had called for Paulo to be allowed to play in the final.

A shattered Wane was in tears as he addressed the media after the match, but the England coach threw his support behind Paulo and said he believed Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga would also want the Samoa captain to play.

“The way this World Cup has been refereed has been fantastic,’ Wane said. “They’ve let the players play. I’m glad he didn’t get sent off.

“I don’t think Mal [Meninga] would want him missing the game, that’s not the way this World Cup has been, and everyone wants to see a strong Australia and a strong Samoa. I don’t think he should be [suspended].”

Burgess also backed Paulo to play, saying: “He should definitely play the final, there was nothing in it.

“It was just the way the tackle went,” Burgess told Fox Sports. “He should not miss a week for that, no way. I was fine”.

Samoa will clash with Australia in the Grand Final at Old Trafford, Manchester on Sunday, November 20, 2022 at 4 am (Fiji time).