25th November 2017, 07:45 | englandrl

England hold off Tonga to reach World Cup final

England hold off Tonga to reach World Cup final

England withstood a dramatic late fightback from a passionate Tonga to reach their first World Cup final for 22 years.

Prolific winger Jermaine McGillvary scored for the 10th game in a row to put his side on their way to a 20-0 lead.

But England were hanging on grimly by the end after the Pacific Islanders, roared on by a fervent following of more than 25,000 fans, ran in converted tries through Tevita Pangai, Siliva Havill and Tuimoala Lolohea in the last seven minutes.

Tonga might have snatched it in the dying seconds when prop Andrew Fifita went on a charge for the line only to lose the ball in the tackle and England clung on for a pulsating 20-18 victory.

England held their nerve and also rode their luck to clinch a first final appearance since Denis Betts led them out against Australia at Wembley in 1995.

Tries from McGillvary, Gareth Widdop and John Bateman looked to have made it a routine victory but in the end England were grateful for the precision kicking of Widdop, who added all three conversions and kicked a crucial penalty that proved the difference.

England coach Wayne Bennett said: "It was a quality game of football. It was a sell-out crowd and the atmosphere was great. Both teams turned up and threw everything at each other. We had our hands full but we got the job done.

"They had some chances but we kept turning up in defence which was great. At the end of the day, our defence won the game for us. I'm really pleased with that."