Fiji upset NZ in tryless World Cup quarter

Nov 18, 2017 - 10:58 AM Fiji have ended a miserable New Zealand 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 were beaten by a second tier-two side on Saturday in a low-scoring match they never looked like winning.

Despite the disappointment, coach David Kidwell still managed to praise his team.

"Fiji played a simple game, but the boys' effort out there? I couldn't be more proud of them.

"It's definitely been the most-enjoyable campaign I've been part of. I'm proud of this group of men but, unfortunately, we didn't get the result we wanted today.

"We didn't play smart again, made a couple of errors on the first tackle and put ourselves under pressure."

Playmaker Shaun Johnson said it felt like the Kiwis had shot themselves in the foot with their first-half effort.

"It honestly felt like we were defending our try line that whole first half and then, when you expect your middles to try and get some go-forward going, it's always going to be a bit more difficult," he said.

Penalty goals by Apisai Koroisau and Taane Milne were offset by a sole Johnson effort, enough to give the Bati a well-deserved win over a Kiwi team who never managed to get out of first gear.

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 first quarter-final in Townsville.

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.

Koroisau's 14th-minute penalty was the only difference between the two sides at the break, Johnson's penalty levelling the scores four minutes after the restart.

At that point, Fijian skipper Kevin Naiqama said he could sense victory.

"When they took that kick - if a team feel confident they can score against you, they'll take the tap," he said.

"I was telling the boys at the moment when they were placing the kick, to take confidence - it was respect to us, to our defence, and that's why they took the two points.

"At that moment, I felt the utmost confidence we could get the job done."

Milne's 62nd-minute penalty restored Fiji's lead, a margin they defended with ease against a Kiwi team bereft of ideas.

Naiqama said that defensive effort had been a work in progress all week, and it was satisfying to see the hard work pay off.

"I'm just real proud of the boys' efforts, fighting all the way to the last second. It's a historic win but, in saying that, the job's only half done and we've got Australia to focus on next week."

Source: AAP

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