Stephen Crichton’s World Cup form has caused a huge salary cap headache for the Panthers.
Jarome Luai is up to his old tricks on the international stage, while England’s dream run on home soil has come to an end.
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Meanwhile, Nathan Cleary’s form has come under fire and the Penrith superstar finds his feet in the Kangaroos spine.
Read below for all the big Talking Points from the World Cup semi finals!
MORE WORLD CUP NEWS
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‘WOULD BE BRILLIANT’: Gutted England skipper backs Samoa to shock Kangaroos
‘DISRESPECTFUL’: Frustrated Kiwis used $10k flight fiasco as ‘fuel for the fire’
Tempers flare in Semi final clash! | 01:13
CLEARY’S FORM UNDER FIRE
Kangaroos halfback Nathan Cleary’s form has come under the microscope after winning the playmaking spot over veteran Daly Cherry-Evans.
The 24-year-old dual premiership winner has partnered Cameron Munster in the halves for both of Australia’s finals games, but is “yet to grab hold of the Kangaroos” according to The Daily Telegraph’s Brent Read.
“The Kangaroos needed a big game from Cleary and for 40 minutes it looked like they would be disappointed,” Read wrote.
“He was quiet in the opening stanza as he missed a handful of tackles and failed to put his stamp on the match. The second half was a slightly different story, although Australia’s attack remained out of sorts.”
The Panthers gun led his side to back-to-back NRL premierships but failed to steer NSW to victory in the 2022 Origin series, despite the Blues being heavy favourites.
While Cleary has been a solid performer for the Kangaroos, The Daily Telegraph’s Buzz Rothfield believes the gun half’s “dominance” has faded due to combinations.
Cherry-Evans has played alongside Munster and the dummy-half pairing of Ben Hunt and Harry Grant in the Queensland set-up, while Cleary is still finding his feet in the spine.
“It takes a while to get your combinations right and this is what kept Daly Cherry-Evans in the race for the job longer than what it looked on paper,” Rothfield said on Big Sports Breakfast
“He has the relationship and the combination with Cameron Munster, with Ben Hunt and Harry Grant from State of Origin.
“So he could have just slotted in much easier than Cleary has.
“Don’t get me wrong, Cleary hasn’t been playing poor but he’s not playing as dominant as he does week in, week out with the players that he trains with for 12 months of the year.
“That’s my view, it is just the combinations have been a bit scratchy at this stage.”
Cleary’s goalkicking has also been under par after converting at 84 per cent across the season for the Panthers. He is striking at 74 per cent during the World Cup.
He even said if his struggles off the boot continued he’d relinquish kicking duties to winger Valentine Holmes.
“It was just – excuse my French – shit kicking. I’ll work hard at it and try to get better but if it keeps going that way I’ve got pretty good goalkickers in the team as well,” Cleary said.
“At training this week I’ll make some slight adjustments and if it works, I’ll feel confident to kick and if I’m not striking them too well then there’s great goalkickers in the team.”
Madge tears up after semi final loss | 01:44
CRICHTON CAUSES HUGE PANTHERS HEADACHE
Samoan gun Stephen Crichton has handed the Panthers a huge headache by stamping his mark on the International stage.
The 22-year-old centre kicked the matchwinning field goal in golden-point to send Samoa through to the World Cup final, beating England 27-26.
Crichton is one of Penrith’s off-contract players and the back-to-back premiership winners are facing a salary cap squeeze after signing Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, James Fisher-Harris and Isaah Yeo to long-term deals.
“Their salary cap is obviously stretched, they can’t keep them all, from what I am told at Penrith they can probably offer Stephen Crichton between $500,000 and $600,000 on a long-term deal,” The Daily Telegraph’s Buzz Rothfield said on the Big Sports Breakfast.
“That’s the very best they can do, what is he worth on the open market to a club like the Redcliffe Dolphins, or a club like the Newcastle Knights we are absolutely desperate for a great centre, or you’d probably play Crichton at fullback.”
Crichton’s value could potentially skyrocket to $1 million per-season if he makes the switch to fullback — having deputised for Dylan Edwards for the Panthers.
Cameron Ciraldo’s Bulldogs have been linked with a play for the young gun in the past, while the Dolphins are still looking for a marquee signing.
“He’s worth $300,000 or $400,000 more, he’s almost a million-dollar player on what we’ve seen in the last two premiership wins, he is 22-years of age, he has a massive future ahead of him.
“The Panthers have got a real problem keeping him, he is off-contract now, he has a year to go but he can talk to rival clubs the moment he touches back down in Sydney.
“I would not at all be surprised if he was forced to move clubs because he is 22 and he needs to set himself, and his future family up for life.”
Samoa v England: Match Highlights | 02:52
LUAI TAKES HIS ANTICS INTERNATIONAL
Jarome Luai was up to his old tricks in Samoa’s golden point semi-final win over England.
The star five-eighth has been known to get under his opponents’ skin while playing for both the Panthers and New South Wales – and over the weekend he took his cheek international.
With just under 20 minutes to go in the thrilling clash, a grubber from England fullback Sam Tompkins went into touch, handing Samoa a seven-tackle set.
Luai rubbed salt in the wound by clapping at Tompkins, who responded by slapping him across the head.
Luai then went after Tompkins and dragged him to the ground by his shirt collar before players from both teams ran in.
“Luai has gone for him… He’s gotten under the skin of the English captain,” a BBC commentator said.
It’s not the first time Luai has sparked a melee midgame. He was criticised earlier this year after he stood over a concussed Queensland star Selwyn Cobbo and yelled at him.
He’s happily adopted the team pest role both for the Panthers and Blues – there’s even a photo of Luai pointing and laughing at Daly Cherry-Evans that’s gone viral and another one of him standing over Felise Kaufusi.
The 25-year-old can clearly talk the talk but he’s backed it up, producing a man of the match performance in Samoa’s 27-26 win.
He finished the game with three try assists, two linebreak assists, six tackle busts, four offloads and 15 tackles with zero misses as Samoa booked a spot in their very first World Cup final.
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Paulo sinbinned for lift on Burgess | 00:42
ENGLAND’S DREAM RUN ENDS
The hosts tournament begun with a 60-6 flogging of a red-hot Samoa side before that same team dumped them out of the World Cup in a tight affair.
England were tipped to face Australia in the World Cup final but were unable to get the job done on Sunday morning AEDT — despite suggestions they were handed an easy road to Old Trafford.
Shaun Wane’s side were able to avoid both New Zealand and Australia on their finals route, the two teams who have won the last nine World Cups.
Other nations have also raised concerns about World Cup organisers’ logistic planning, with Samoa moving their base twice after being left disappointed.
Wane hit back at the suggestions and highlighted Australia’s extra day off in between the finals as a reason the hosts weren’t getting preferential treatment.
“I’ve never heard that before, and I never thought I would hear that,” he said.
“I just don’t see where that comes from. The Aussies are playing Friday and we’re on Saturday, 24 hours later.
“So they’ll have an extra day in a steam room, nice and relaxed. They’ve got another 24 hours on us.
“I think the World Cup have done a great job. We’re changing hotels this weekend, travelling to London and we look at that as exciting.”
England boasted a team stacked full of NRL talent including Victor Radley, Herbie Farnworth and Dominic Young alongside Super League stars Sam Tomkins, George Williams and John Bateman.
Meanwhile Samoa lost Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (ankle), Braden Hamlin-Uele (calf), Tyrone May (hip), Spencer Leniu (shoulder), Izack Tago (shoulder) and Danny Levi (personal reasons).
Coach Matt Parish said his squad were back to “bare bones” but still managed to schedule a clash with the Kangaroos at Old Trafford.
England coach bemoans semi final exit | 05:35
KIWIS’ MISSED OPPORTUNITY AS MADGE’S ‘CRUCIAL DECISIONS’ CALLED OUT
New Zealand went into the World Cup ranked No.1 in the world, but will head back home in the coming days empty handed after being defeated by Australia in the semi-final.
Former Kiwi international Tony Kemp declared on SEN on Monday: “This one we let get away, we should have won it.”
He’s not alone in holding that sentiment either.
Fox League’s Braith Anasta called New Zealand “the team to beat” before the tournament kicked off.
“They have got a formidable team. It is one of the best teams I have ever seen them have on paper. They have got it covered,” he said on a World Cup preview show.
Former Kangaroo Cooper Cronk agreed, saying: “I do think they can win it.”
New Zealand cruised through the group matches with three wins but were given a wake-up call in the quarter-final.
Fiji led for just over an hour, forcing New Zealand to claw their way back into the game before eventually winning with a penalty goal and then try seven minutes later.
They fought hard in the semi but lost to Australia by two points.
Coach Michael Maguire was “gutted” over the result, but acknowledged that it was a close battle and New Zealand were somewhat unlucky, saying “it could have gone our way but unfortunately just the bounce of the ball there.”
But Kemp put the onus on Maguire and called out how he used his forward pack.
“I think there were crucial decisions (that could have been made) on replacing players at the right time and starting players,” Kemp said on SEN.
“Such as (starting) Moses (Leota) for Jesse (Bromwich), I think they would have got it.
“Imagine that, New Zealand versus Samoa in the Grand Final, Auckland would have come to a standstill.”