Andrew Pelechaty reviews the quarter final between New Zealand and Fiji …
New Zealand 24
Tries: Ronaldo Mulitalo (25), Briton Nikora (48), Joseph Manu (62), Jordan Rapana (78)
Goals: Jordan Rapana (27, 49, 64, 71 – pen)
Tries: Kevin Naiqama 2 (17, 43), Maika Sivo (11)
Goals: Brandon Wakeham (12, 19, 44)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
After cruising through the group stages, New Zealand finally had a contest in their quarter final against Fiji at MKM Stadium, Hull.
With so many blowouts so far (including massive quarter final wins to Australia and England), this was – to misquote the famous The Dark Knight line – “the game the Rugby League World Cup deserves, and the one it needs right now.”
After beating New Zealand in the 2017 RLWC quarter finals, Fiji were eyeing off another upset: racing to a 12-0 lead inside the opening 20 minutes, with tries to Maika Sivo (going down the left-hand side) and Kevin Naiqama (a beautiful ball from Sunia Turuva, with Naiqama cutting back inside to score).
Ronaldo Mulitalo got the Kiwis on the board (off a scrum set piece) in the 25th minute, but Fiji held on to take a hard earnt 12-16 half-time lead.
Naiqama’s second try early in the second half gave Fiji an 18-6 lead, but that buffer didn’t last long, with Briton Nikora barging over five minutes later (as the Fiji defenders tried to strip the ball) to trim the margin back to six.
Fiji’s defence held on again for another 14 minutes before Joseph Manu scored in the 62nd minute, with Jordan Rapana’s third goal tying the scores.
A stripping penalty against Fiji in the 71st minute allowed Rapana to put New Zealand ahead for the first time. While Rapana is a part-time goalkicker for Canberra, he found his kicking boots when it mattered, with four goals from four attempts so far.
With two minutes left and Fiji hanging on, Rapana delivered the winning play (as he’s done so often for Canberra), scoring in the right corner after a lovely long cut-out ball from Dylan Brown. While Rapana missed the sideline conversion, it didn’t matter as the Kiwis’ six-point lead was enough.
With a massive semi-final against Australia next Saturday, New Zealand will be better for this tough contest. Despite the loss, Fiji showed they can compete against the big boys, which is great to see.
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