Fiji have ended New Zealand’s run at the Rugby League World Cup, downing the Kiwis 4-2 in a gritty quarter-final upset in Wellington.
Just a week after falling 28-22 to Tonga, the Kiwis have been beaten by a second tier-two side in a low-scoring match they had never looked like winning, according to Reuters’ report.
Two Apisai Koroisau penalties to a sole Shaun Johnson effort on Saturday were enough to give the Bati a well-deserved win over a Kiwi team which never managed to get out of first gear.
An error-ridden performance from the Kiwis was comprehensively punished by a Fijian outfit, who showed more pace, poise and precision than the lacklustre New Zealanders.
Fiji face the daunting task of toppling the Kangaroos in next weekend’s Brisbane semi-final. Defending champions Australia thumped Samoa 46-0 in Friday night’s quarter-final in Townsville.
The early chances went to Fiji, Brayden Wiliame darting through after five minutes but denied the try when he lost the ball over the line, while Marcelo Montoya came close 15 minutes later down the left edge.
Fiji’s defence, largely untested during an unbeaten pool run, was never really pressured in the first 40 minutes, the Kiwis their own worst enemies with a succession of handling errors and missed tackles.
The Bati continued to dominate possession and territory as the game wore on, Akuila Uate unleashing Henry Raiwalui down the left after 30 minutes with only a despairing ankle tap between him and the game’s first try.
The Kiwis sparked into brief life right on the halftime whistle, but ran out of time, options and space, leaving Koroisau’s 14th-minute penalty the only difference between the two sides at the break.
A Johnson penalty levelled the scores four minutes after the restart, Fiji storming back immediately with a sweeping move highlighted by a stunning run from Suliasi Vunivalu.
Reduced to 12 men after Jordan Rapana was binned for slowing the play the ball, the Kiwis were hanging on by a thread as Fiji took a 2-0 lead into the break.
While Johnson levelled the scores early in the second spell, another Koroisau penalty restored the Bati’s lead, a margin they defended with ease against a Kiwi team bereft of ideas.