Kevin Brown has insisted that the result was fair after England clung on for a 20-18 win over Tonga to secure their first World cup final appearance for 22 years.

England were comfortably leading at 20-0 but suddenly found themselves under enormous pressure as their opposition ran in three converted tries in the last seven minutes. It was close to being four with Andrew Fifita charging for the line with second left of the game, but the ball came loose in Elliott Whitehead’s tackle.

However, Tonga coach Kristian Woolf has said that he is baffled by referee Matt Cecchin’s decision not to refer the final call to video referee Ben Thaler after Fifita regathered the ball to touch down.

There is an online petition asking for an explanation that quickly attracted tens of thousands of signatures and Tongan fans have been protesting.

However, Brown said that he had a clear view of the incident, “I think it was a clear-cut drop but obviously if that had been us, we’d have been wanting the same. Any chance you can get of having another tackle or a video referral, you’re going to call for that. But I think it was a fair result. We were much the better side for the majority of the game.”

England will be facing Australia in the final, a team that has conceded just 16 points so far and won their final 54-6 against Fiji.

Head coach Wayne Bennett has said that England are “probably not” playing well enough to defeat Australia but Brown is expecting him to find a way.

“We’ve got the best coach in the world so he’ll have a few ideas. With the effort and endeavour, we’ve got to go up a couple of gears and, if we can do that, then we’ll be competitive. I know from playing so many games that when you’re competitive anything can happen. We’ll enjoy the week and give it everything we’ve got.”