A semi-final against favourites Australia awaited the winner of the third quarter final between New Zealand and Fiji at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand. The Kiwis came into the game as strong favourites with few giving the flamboyant Fiji any chance of progressing.
Fiji were unbeaten in the competition with a very impressive +140 points difference, and New Zealand showed that they are fallible with last weekends surprise loss to Tonga.
The prospect was for an open game with many neutrals looking for a great Fiji performance after they named an unchanged side after their 38-10 win over Italy last weekend.
Fiji were out of the blocks quickly and went close on four minutes when Brayden Wiliame lost the ball in the act of scoring.
When New Zealand held down in the tackle on their own twenty, Apisai Koroisau kicked the penalty goal to edge Fiji into the lead at 2-0. Fiji weren’t just going to roll over, New Zealand were in a battle.
As the half wore on, Fiji began to dominate as New Zealand couldn’t get possession in the Fijian half. The Bati were more than good value for their narrow lead at the interval.
A forty-third minute penalty for backchat gave Shaun Johnson a simple penalty goal from twenty metres to level the scores.
Jordan Rapana was sin-binned on forty-six for a professional foul, stopping a quick Fiji play-the-ball as New Zealand defenders tried to get back to cover after a lightening fast break.
Wiliame had a try ruled out on forty-eight for a double movement.
A howler from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, knocking on five metres from his own line, gave Fiji an opportunity on the hour mark and there quickly followed a penalty for offside which Koroisau slotted between the uprights for 4-2.
Ten minutes from time Fiji knocked-on after a ball strip on their own twenty but Fiji weathered the storm and mopped up a poor kick through on the fourth tackle.
Fiji lost the ball in the tackle on the half way line with just over three minutes left on the clock, and from the resulting scrum they forced a goal line dropout but the Kiwis couldn’t convert it into points as they kicked the ball dead on the last tackle.
Fiji held on, under extreme pressure in the closing minutes, for a sensational victory which eliminates one of the co-hosts in a game which ripped up the form book and the bookies expectations.
It was only the second try less game in World Cup history as Fiji beat New Zealand in their first ever meeting. While there was little to admire in terms of attacking flair, the two defences were outstanding in thwarting attack after attack. The unthinkable happened, the Kiwis have failed to reach the semi-finals, and it will be Fiji who take on Australia next Friday evening for a place in the final.
What an entertaining game.
New Zealand: Tuivasa-Sheck, Watene-Zelezniak, Whare, Takariangi, Rapana (SB), Martin, Johnson (G), Taupau, Levi, Warea-Hargreaves, Mannering, Tapine, Blair. Subs: Asofa-Solomona, Packer, Liu, Nikorima.
Fiji: Naiqama, Vunivalu, Milne, Uate, Montoya, Hayne, Raiwalui, Sims, Koroisau (2G), Vunakece, Kikau, Wiliame, Kamikamica. Subs: Lovodua, Saifiti, Roqica, Nakubuwai.
Referee: Matt Cecchin.