France captain Hugo LIoris lifts the trophy as the jubilant players celebrate their World Cup victory. France beat Croatia 4-2 to win their second title, the first they won in 1998. REUTERS

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Tonga robbed in RLWC semifinal loss

International Sports

Tonga loses in a nailbiter RLWC semifinalTonga loses in a nailbiter RLWC semifinalWhy didn't they go upstairs? That was the question ringing around a bemused Tongan dressing room following their controversial World Cup semifinal defeat to England at Mt Smart.

Trailing 20-0 with seven minutes to go and seemingly all hope lost, Tonga sprung to life with three late tries to cut England's lead to 20-18.

The ball then appeared to have been stripped from his grasp by an English tackler, but he picked it up and dived for the line, where he looked to have scored the winning try.

Referee Matt Cecchin had a different view, though.

Without going to the video referee, he deemed that Fifita had lost it forward, and that there had been no strip, which meant he wasn't able to pick it up and score, sending a relieved England side to the final.

The Tongan players were left dumbfounded and with so muchriding on the decision, coach Kristian Woolf could not believe Cecchin did not use the technology available like he had done several times earlier.

"I don't know if it's a try or not because I haven't seen it but I would've thought in those circumstances there's no way in the world you don't have a look it at," Woolf said.

"The game's on the line, it's the last play of the game. You look at other tries 10, 12 times and you don't have a look at that. I really don't understand that."

Had Fifita scored, Tonga, a tier-two nation, would have completed their second win over a tier-one nation in the space of two weeks, after they beat the Kiwis a fortnight ago.

Instead, as things unfolded, England survived and will now play the Kangaroos in next Saturday's final in Brisbane.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, England coach Wayne Bennett was adamant the right decision was made.

Even if they had gone to the videoreferee, he had no doubt England winger Jermaine McGillvary had the ball stripped from his grasp just moments earlier in a hectic final play.

"Why didn't he give us a penalty when the ball got stripped off McGillvary, exactly the same thing happened," Bennett said.

However, that was not the only decision that went against the Tongans.

Midway through the first-half, the video referee overturned a no-try ruling on the field to England's Gareth Widdop, despite replays appearing to show that he was held up.

"I thought there was enough doubt given the fact it hadn't been given a try by the referee that it could have went our way," Woolf said. "It was just one of those nights when for one reason or another every 50-50 (decision) seemed to go the over way."

While Tonga were behind on the scoreboard for the entire 80 minutes, Woolf felt his side had outplayed England for large parts of the match.

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