Rugby League World Cup: Fiji defeat New Zealand 4-2 in thrilling quarter-final

Fiji will play Australia in the semi-finals of the Rugby League World Cup after winning a tense and scrappy match against New Zealand in Wellington.

Fiji dominated the opening half but only had two points from a Apisai Koroisau penalty at the break.

Shaun Johnson levelled before Taane Milne scored the decisive points with another penalty after 62 minutes.

It was a shock result but a deserved one in what was only the second try-less match in World Cup history.

Earlier, Tonga survived a major scare to beat Lebanon 24-22 in a thrilling match in Christchurch.

New Zealand's Nelson Asofa Solomona
The Fiji team were relentless in the tackle against the Kiwis

Punching through the glass ceiling

Australia, New Zealand and England are the three established tier one teams in rugby league – but there is growing evidence during this tournament that the number of competitive nations is on the rise.

Tonga defeated the Kiwis is a stunning match in Hamilton last weekend and now Fiji have pulled off another huge shock.

Fiji have always had talented players and favoured an attractive brand of football – hence they have reached the past three World Cup semi-finals.

But defeating the Kiwis in Wellington is an outstanding achievement on another level, and one that was fully deserved after an absorbing if scrappy match.

Fiji were particularly dominant in the opening 40 minutes – 62% possession, 934m against 575m from New Zealand – but perhaps lacked a little composure and execution close to the opposition line.

Offloading and jinking mazy runs allied to some thunderous tackling and an incredible commitment was enough to see them home but they will have to find another level against the imperious Kangaroos in Brisbane next weekend.

A crushing World Cup for the Kiwis

The accepted pre-tournament logic had it that New Zealand would win their group and play England in a semi-final in Auckland on 25 November.

That went out of the window when the Kiwis lost to Tonga and ended up in the same half of the draw as holders and overwhelming favourites Australia.

But the defeat against Fiji means that they will not even get the chance to test themselves against their Trans-Tasman rivals.

There was arguably little sign of what was to come when they followed up their 38-8 win over Samoa with a 74-6 demolition of Scotland.

But they let a 16-2 lead slip against Tonga and never recovered in what must ultimately be judged as a bitterly disappointing campaign for one of the tournament’s three host nations.

They were battered and bruised for long periods in Wellington and never really looked like breaching the Fiji line.

Arguably the nearest they came was when explosive full-back Roger Tuivasa-Sheck found himself in open space and closing in on the Fiji line but he still had men to beat and lost his footing at a crucial moment.

“We didn’t play smart – again, errors in the first tackle that put us under pressure,” said coach David Kidwell afterwards.

“We need to translate the commitment to smart performances – that is the most frustrating part.

“But those young guys know what it means to represent the Kiwis, know what it takes, the standards that have been set.”

Follow the World Cup on BBC TV, radio & online

You can follow the fortunes of your favourite team with live match notifications sent straight to your phone or tablet via the BBC Sport app. Line-up, kick-off, score, half-time and full-time options are available for all teams participating at the World Cup.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.