Fiji flip New Zealand to sneak into semi-finals

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    Fiji have beaten New Zealand 4 – 2 in a thrilling quarter final in Wellington and booked themselves a match up against the Kangaroos in the semis.

    In the lead up to the game all expectations were that it would be an exciting game with some great attacking talent on show from both sides, but that at the end of the day the Kiwis would win and win well.

    How wrong we all were – on all of those points.

    In the end the game was an 80 minute arm wrestle with the Fijians always in the ascendancy but never able to strike a killer blow leaving the Kiwis always with a shot at sneaking the win.

    The Fijians got the first points early in the game with a penalty and in the first half had the bulk of possession and territory. They kept coming at the home side but interestingly they struggled to turn this possession into genuine scoring opportunities. But they didn’t panic – they kept pinning the Kiwis back deep in their own half and while the Fijis weren’t scoring, they were forcing the men in black to have to start their sets close to their own line and to make huge numbers of tackles.

    The question was would the New Zealanders eventually crack and let the Fijians in or would the Fijians run out of energy and allow the Kiwis back into the game?

    The Kiwis must have felt frustrated but relieved come halftime – they were 0-2 down and had not threatened at all in the first 40 minutes. On the upside they were only two points behind and had managed to withstand a huge amount of pressure from the Fijians.

    The home side needed to make a good start to the second half and they got this with an early penalty and successful goal to square things up. Was this the beginning of the comeback people thought? In one word – no!

    Just as the Kiwis were starting to make things happen Jordan Rapana gave away a professional foul and was sent to the bin for 10 minutes. Surely now the Fijians would turn pressure and the extra space into points!

    But again the game continued to be a real back and forth as both sides looked for gaps and space but could never turn half breaks into anything more than metres gained. The Kiwis continued to hold out in defence and conceded no points at all while being down to 12 men. Could this be the inspiration they needed to fight back?

    The Fijis showed they are well organised in defence in the second half when the Kiwis had a period of ball and put the visitors under pressure.

    However the Kiwi attack was never at its best and despite a number of players including Tuivasa-Sheck desperately searching for a way to break the line the Fijians stayed strong and scrambled well when needed.

    With 20 minutes left the Fijians choose to take another two points instead of risking another attempt at the try.

    The Kiwis knew they were going to have to make something happen now but everything they tried was either purely executed or easily dealt with by the Fijians who were growing in confidence and energy.

    The final 20 minutes were full of errors from both sides as the Kiwis searched for something, anything to get them back in the game. But they were never able to capitalise on any of the opportunities and despite having some of the best talent in the rugby league world they just looked flat.

    As the final few minutes ticked by the Fijians continued to do everything right. Good sets, deep kicks and solid defence that put the Kiwis under continual pressure. The game had shifted – instead of viewers waiting for the attacking talent to explode, everyone was on the edge of their seat wondering if a no try game just might be the most exciting game they had seen for a long time.

    New Zealand had some chances with just a few minutes left and forced a line drop out from the Fijians but in honesty the home side never really looked like scoring the much needed points.

    One late attack from the Kiwis was easily dealt with and the Fijians had a 7 tackle set with just a couple of minutes to go. They did all the right things – put the ball up the jumper and took every spare second possible in the play of the ball. They kicked deep again and as Tuivasa-Sheck tried to dance his way out of defence he just got caught and driven back meaning the Kiwis had one final shot and needed to go 95 metres to win the game. They didn’t. Johnson hoisted a hail mary bomb – Naiqama defused it easily and hit the grass knowing that he was going to lead his team into the semis!

    For the Fijians, they all played with so much heart. Hayne was especially impressive. He didn’t light up the game with his attack as much as viewers would have liked but his kicking and his control of the whole game was impressive. For a player who has had a lot of press this year about going missing in games and being selfish he really showed he can control entire games at the highest level.

    Sims too led from the front and did so much hard work – he got his team going forwards time after time and epitomised the effort and resolve that the Fijians clearly have to add to their attacking prowess.

    On the Kiwi side it was a big let down. Blair was absent for so much of the game and never set the tone for his team. Johnson too was poor – he has so much talent but in terms of controlling a game he was shown to be really lacking at this level. Tuivasa-Sheck tried to get himself into the game but even he was not at his best.

    In the end the Fijians were deserved winners – the score might suggest a very tight game but in reality the Bati always looked better than their more highly ranked opponents. New Zealand rugby league has a lot of work to do. The Warriors have failed to live up to their potential for years now and the Kiwis are struggling to click at international level.

    For the Fijians they now have a well-deserved shot at a place in the final. Of course they will be underdogs for their semi-final – but based on today’s performance they don’t really care what label they are given. The Aussies will be a big step up from the Kiwis for sure but they will need to make sure that they do not take the Bati lightly.

    Today’s game has injected some more life into international rugby league and hopefully demonstrated that it’s not just about scoring as many tries as possible. The Fijis showed a real depth to their gameplay today and a maturity that will make them a real threat in the semis and beyond this World Cup.

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    The Crowd Says (83)

    • November 19th 2017 @ 7:01am
      Oto shark said | November 19th 2017 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      Go Fiji go. Gotta hand it to Simms ,he plays in England and probably lives there for now, but he put his hand up to come all the way and play and HELP Fiji, probably for not much money either, he also gave away his pay from the a previous world cup to Fijian players who play and live in Fiji. Top bloke ,this win against Nz is a good reward.

      • Roar Guru

        November 19th 2017 @ 8:23am
        Renegade said | November 19th 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

        Agree, his helped them to 3 straight World Cup semi final appearances and he has always been one of the best players in the tournament…. he was immense last night in the forwards battle.

        The Bati owned the kiwis in the middle.

    • November 19th 2017 @ 7:20am
      Duncan Smith said | November 19th 2017 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      Hayne plays well when he cares. Good game.

      But give more ball to Suli.

    • November 19th 2017 @ 7:38am
      Peter Phelps said | November 19th 2017 @ 7:38am | ! Report

      Great well deserved win. I would have liked to see more tries but sometimes that is the way it goes.

      Now for England and PNG, for the flag of St George.

    • November 19th 2017 @ 8:55am
      Albo said | November 19th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      A terrible day for the kiwis. The scoreline flattered them. Fiji should have put 20 on them but for their own lack of composure and creativity in the halves. But the Fijians dominated the kiwis in the forwards all game, with Sims and Kikau particularly dominant. Hayne barely raised a sweat in attack but his kicking game and defensive work was outstanding. Uate & MIlne too were outstanding in the backline with strong defence. For the kiwis RTS tried hard and Martin looked the only one likely to ever rescue the kiwis. But the kiwi forwards were totally contained with only Tapine looking to cause any trouble. Blair, Taupau & JWH completed a generally poor tournament and Johnson went missing when most needed yet again. With losses to Tonga & Fiji the state of New Zealand rugby league is at an all time low. Kidwell must be under scrutiny for both the pre tournament issues of player defections and ordinary performance produced by those who stayed.

      • November 19th 2017 @ 1:13pm
        republican said | November 19th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        ……..League is a niche sport in NZ, so in that respect they are where they should be right now, while they have punched above their weight up until now, don’t you reckon?

        • November 19th 2017 @ 4:55pm
          Daniel said | November 19th 2017 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

          They should still be beating the PI nations TBH. But I guess the Kiwis are a bit like the Wallabies – plenty of sides they ought to beat, but when they’re not on they’re pretty ordinary and can lose to pretty well anyone.

          • Roar Guru

            November 19th 2017 @ 5:12pm
            Sleiman Azizi said | November 19th 2017 @ 5:12pm | ! Report

            Anyone can have an off day or tournament.

            Clearly New Zealand have and that has been compounded by the fact that the Pacific Island nations they lost to have improved to actually be able to beat them.

            I guess we will see in the next couple of years how this tournament’s form plays out.

            The important thing is that the teams be given the opportunity to allow that to happen.

            • November 19th 2017 @ 5:20pm
              Daniel said | November 19th 2017 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

              It wasn’t an off day… they’ve struggled for a couple years now really. Frankly their attacking options in the Fiji 20 were abysmal. For a side with that spine to only get 1 repeat set all game is just unforgivable. Their entire game play was just far too constrained and they really didn’t put the sort of pressure on you’d expect for a side with that roster.

              • Roar Guru

                November 19th 2017 @ 5:23pm
                Sleiman Azizi said | November 19th 2017 @ 5:23pm | ! Report

                You’re right.

                Their off-day has been building and building…

                Ah, the heady days when every second international tournament was the Kiwis and they were number one.

              • November 19th 2017 @ 8:09pm
                Jacko said | November 19th 2017 @ 8:09pm | ! Report

                Its because they have an OFF COACH

          • November 19th 2017 @ 5:53pm
            republican said | November 19th 2017 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

            ….to be sure, especially comparing the support they glean compared to PI and Micronesian nations, from Australia, by being afforded membership of our domestic culture, across so many sports………..

            • November 19th 2017 @ 7:43pm
              Concerned Observer said | November 19th 2017 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

              I know you’re grieving right now Republican and I apologise if I misinterpreted but that comment came dangerously close to “Gee, I hate it when people from smaller and/or developing nations get access to the same opportunities”

              New Zealand’s a big boy, the concept that they’re little underdogs is ridiculous because the “little guy punching above his weight” doesn’t work when they do it on a routine basis

              The squad in this world cup had the talent and skill to crush Australia yet you can’t do that when you show such utter contempt and disregard for supposedly lesser teams. 2 weeks in a row they turned up just expecting to walk over the line and 2 weeks in a row they were ambushed by teams that played with passion and pride in the jersey they were chosen to represent.

              The attitude of Tonga and Fiji isn’t so alien. It wasn’t so long ago that NZ was displaying that same self belief, moulded by talent and pride. It allowed them to dominate a team filled with supposed future immortals like they were total ameteurs but now it’s gone and it’s clear that the Kiwi’s have stagnated, possibly even since the 2014 four nations while their rivals have evolved and surpassed them

              There’s no point in disowning them or Navel gazing Republican, this is the opportunity to stick with them as they hopefully get it stuck in their heads that turning up is no longer good enough and they need to change

              • November 20th 2017 @ 2:26pm
                peeeko said | November 20th 2017 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

                that Australian 2014 team was missing a lot of players

    • November 19th 2017 @ 9:21am
      Justin Kearney said | November 19th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      Outstanding game of football. Loved every second of it.

    • November 19th 2017 @ 9:25am
      Greg Ambrose said | November 19th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      Akila Uate had a great game. Shaun Johnson is a shadow of his former self and is one of a long line of halves in the NRL who look so promising but fade to grey when you would hope they would be at their peak. The exception being QLD halves who get better long after a peak was believed to be reached..

      The Kiwis used to be a big cranky team and so did the Warriors, but now they are just a bit mellow.

      The Plane had a pretty good game but will be much more effective if he takes the line on a lot more like thurston.

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