So close for Fifita and Tonga
By Corey Rosser, New Zealand Correspondent, NRL.com
Sharks prop Andrew Fifita refused to complain about the late knock-on call which thwarted his side's stunning comeback in the 20-18 semi-final loss to England, but his coach questioned the process used to get to the decision.
After the ball came loose and Fifita regathered to score what would have been the winning try on the final play of the game, referee Matt Cecchin ruled the NSW enforcer had knocked on rather than had the ball stripped by Elliott Whitehead in the lead up.
Further evidence suggests the call was correct, and post-match Fifita was quick to move past the issue, linking it to his stunning try in the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final where, on that occasion, luck favoured him.
"Look, that's football," Fifita said.
"There is going to be controversies, there's going to be everything, I take it on the chin. It is what it is.
"I just think back to the 2016 grand final and that chance and that amazing feeling.
"But nothing can take away from what we have done. We have rocked the world. We have taken our little nation to places."
While stopping short of saying the call was wrong, Tonga coach Kristian Woolf questioned why the video referee wasn't used, as it had been on several other occasions throughout the 80 minutes at Mount Smart Stadium.
"When the game is on the line, I don't know if it's a try or not because I haven't seen it again, but I would have thought that in those circumstances there's no way in the world you don't have a look at it. That really surprises me," Woolf said.
"I just can't believe we don't have a look at that, the game is on the line, it's the last play of the game.
"What I don't understand with that one, when you look at some of the other tries, the first try that England scored and Andrew Fifita looks like he gets his arm underneath and we look at that as many times as we possibly can."
Woolf also took aim at his side's poor execution on the ball, which saw them blow a number of genuine scoring opportunities with impatient offloads, sloppy handling errors and poor decisions.
Prior to the semi-finals, Tonga's attack had been a feature of their game and they were averaging over 44 points across four matches, but appeared to lose confidence when faced with an organised English defensive line.
"We had three or four opportunities well before that last 10 or 15 minutes and for whatever reason tonight, opportunities we have taken in past games, we just weren't able to take," Woolf said.
"We just didn't quite get there tonight with a couple of opportunities we created.
"I thought we certainly did enough to win that game at different times, our execution was just a little bit off when it counted.
"I thought for very, very long periods we were on top of that game.
"We were a little bit ill-disciplined when we needed to be better, that gave England field position at times."
*Article first appeared on NRL.com
England now play Australia in the Final of the Rugby League World Cup at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, December 2