11/25/2017 12:58:26 PM

England into World Cup final after late Tonga drama

England into World Cup final after late Tonga drama

Wellignton, New Zealand: England set up a World Cup showdown with Australia after scraping home 20-18 against a late-charging Tonga, who were denied a last-gasp try in Auckland on Saturday.

It is the first time England have reached the final in 22 years, their last appearance ending in a 16-8 defeat by Australia at Wembley in 1995.

In a nail-biting finish to the semi-final, Tonga were down 20-0 with eight minutes remaining but the Pacific islanders ran in three quick tries to close within two points.

Then on the stroke of full-time, Tonga claimed Andrew Fifita was illegally stripped of the ball as he drove towards what would have been a sensational match-winning try.

But referee Matt Cecchin ruled Fifita lost the ball and refused Tongan pleas for a video review as England hung on to snap an agonising semi-final jinx.

Before a packed 30,000 Auckland crowd -- including a large contingent of Tonga supporters fired up by the appearance of the Tongan King Tupou VI wearing a team jersey -- it was England who impressed from the outset. 

They scored two tries in the first half and another in the second with Garth Widdop landing four out of four shots at goal and adding a try himself as England inflicted a first defeat on Tonga in the tournament.

Australia, who beat England in pool play, thrashed Fiji 54-6 in the first semi-final in Brisbane on Friday.

England face the Kangaroos in the final, also in Brisbane, next weekend.

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