History was made in Wellington on Saturday night as Fiji beat New Zealand 4-2 in the quarter final, dumping them from the Rugby League World Cup in a tryless match.
Poor Kiwi performance or simply outplayed?
After the final whistle blew, New Zealand fans were stunned and speechless at the unexpected result. We can say the Kiwis were an embarrassment and let down their country but the truth is Fiji outplayed them physically. As soon as the game begun it was clear Fiji were a much larger side and were rattling the Kiwis as they continued to run at them with dominating force. The second half saw the Kiwis get back on their feet and take control of the game, but no tries were scored. If there was any credit to be given to the Kiwis, they managed to defend their line for the full 80 minutes – which was an achievement in itself considering the amount of possession Fiji had. Fiji put up a tough fight and won the game with two penalty goals.
Fiji wins without crossing the line
Fiji had a lot of ball, which is why it was extremely surprising they did not score a single try. The first half saw the Kiwis hardly get their hands on the ball, and when they did they were too exhausted to do anything with it. Saturday’s match was the ultimate test for the Kiwis’ defence: they protected their line relentlessly as Fiji had an endless amount of scoring opportunities. Fiji may have won the game, but the fact they were unable to break through the Kiwis’ defence raises questions about their attacking ability. This could be a real issue when they play Australia next weekend.
Too many errors cost the Kiwis the game
It was a rare occasion when the Kiwis had possession. I highly doubt this was a part of David Kidwell’s plan of ‘Kiwi-style footy’, but whenever they got hold of the ball they gave it back almost immediately with an endless amount of schoolboy errors. Whether it was knock-ons, bad passes or giving away penalties, the Kiwis did it and they did it well. There was a lack of smart play from the Kiwis as they attempted to change the momentum with thoughtless moves like kicking early in the tackle count and turning over possession. The result could have been very different if not for the errors. To sum it all up – as Bluey McClennan said – they played dumb football.
Fiji outshine the opposition
Fiji simply outshone the Kiwis. Rugby league is about passion, physicality and putting your heart on the line and there is no denying Fiji proved they wanted it more. The overwhelming amount of emotion shown by Fiji at fulltime was enough to make even Kiwis fans smile. If they come out with the same passion and commitment next week then Australia better watch out.
Goals: Apisai Koroisau, Taane Milne
New Zealand 2
Goals: Shaun Johnson