By Chris Kennedy (NRL.com)
The Kangaroos have done enough to overcome a determined Samoa 44-18 and book a rematch against New Zealand in the Four Nations final in Wellington next Saturday.
In front of a vocal crowd of 18,456 at WIN Stadium in Wollongong, featuring a very heavy Samoan contingent, the green-and-golds produced a three-try blitz late in the second half of the opening stanza to blow the game open.
Despite a determined effort from the outsiders the Aussies always looked in control from the time halfback Cooper Cronk opened the scoring in just the second minute.
The match featured first ever Test tries for David Klemmer, Josh Mansour and debutant Josh Jackson, while unlucky rookie Sione Mata'utia selflessly passed for Cronk's try then was denied himself due to a forward pass in the lead-up.
In Australia's first set, after some great work from Inglis to put Mata'utia in space just inside the Aussies' half, the 18-year-old showed maturity beyond his years to streak downfield and patiently hold up the pass as he ran Samoa fullback Tim Simona away from his supporting runner, then threw a perfectly-timed pass to Cronk.
Inglis was next to cross in the 11th minute after a series of passes on the last at the Samoa line, including a couple of offloads from Corey Parker – one early in the play and the last to put Inglis over.
Samoa had the better of the next 15 minutes but repeatedly let the Aussies off the hook when they got into attacking position, often piggy-backing the Kangaroos out of their own end.
Joseph Leilua, who was so dominant against New Zealand, was the chief culprit, conceding four first-half ruck penalties leading to a caution from the officials.
The Samoans did peg the margin back to four points on 20 minutes through fullback Tim Simona, who put a big fend on Aussie skipper Cameron Smith then ran around Aaron Woods to cross next to the posts.
But the floodgates opened in the 26th minute when Cronk put Inglis through a gap that opened up when Ben Roberts fell for Sam Thaiday's decoy run, with the fullback's second try enough to earn him man-of-the-match honours.
Four minutes later Daly Cherry-Evans streaked 60 metres from a scrum for a great solo try when he stood up Kyle Stanley and outpaced Simona to the corner.
It became three tries in eight minutes when David Klemmer bagged his first four-pointer in green and gold.
The rangy prop – who repeatedly dented the Samoa line with massive kick-off returns – smashed onto a short ball to burst over under the posts, sending the Aussies to the break up 28-6.
With 85 metres from just seven first-half carries, Klemmer added plenty of grunt to the Kangaroos' running game.
Needing to win by at least nine to progress the Samoans were never realistically going to come back from a 22-point half-time deficit but refused to go away and were first to score after the break through Roberts who produced a big left foot step at the Aussie line.
It was to be as close as they got though, with Cronk getting his second in the 62nd minute to effectively end the contest.
Samoa skipper David Fa'alogo kept things interesting, charging over shortly after, before a late pair of tries to Josh Papalii and Josh Mansour blew the score out to 44-18.
Australia 44. Tries: Inglis (2), Cronk (2), Cherry-Evans, Papalii, Mansour. Goals: Smith (4/5), Cherry-Evans (2/2).
Samoa 18. Tries: Simona, Roberts, Fa'alogo. Goals: Lafai (3/3).