New Zealand survived a big scare when Jordan Rapana’s late try sealed a 24-18 win over Fiji in their World Cup quarter-final at the MKM stadium in Hull.
Fiji were in the lead for much of the game, but Rapana kicked a late penalty to give his side the lead for the first time, then claimed the decisive try to set up a semi-final encounter with Australia.
The Fijians finished the first half 12-6 up front with tries from Maika Sivo and Kevin Naiqama, both converted by Brandon Wakeham.
New Zealand withdrew a try as Ronaldo Mulitalo landed and brought in Rapana deep into the first period as Michael Maguire’s side struggled to force themselves into the game.
Naiqama scored his second try early in the second half, but New Zealand responded quickly via Briton Nikora.
Joseph Manu’s try and a third conversion from Rapana meant it was all to play for with 15 minutes to go.
New Zealand led 20-18 with Rapana’s penalty eight minutes before the end and his effort then sealed the comeback victory.
Thanks to some great treatment from Fiji, they claimed the opening score with 12 minutes to go as Sivo passed into the left corner and Wakeham added the extras from the outside to put his side up 6-0.
Fiji extended their lead midway through the first half when Sunia Turuva fed captain Naiqama, who came in from the right wing to blast through a hole and hit behind the posts, with Wakeham making the 12-0 with his second successful kick.
New Zealand were finally on the scoreboard with 14 minutes left of the half when Mulitalo scored in the left corner and Rapana converted to narrow the deficit to six points.
Mulitalo’s run from deep into his own half after collecting a high kick almost paid off, but a fine tackle from Turuva stopped the attack before New Zealand knocked on the door from the next game.
Fiji pushed for a third try late at halftime and were held back but still had done enough to take an unexpected but deserved 12-6 lead at halftime.
They clearly meant business at the start of the second half, as Naiqama just managed to land within five minutes of going over on a dummy pass to the right wing. Wakeham’s third kick extended the advantage to 18-6.
But New Zealand reacted quickly with their second attempt as Nikora broke out of a tackle to hit the line and Rapana’s kick turned it into a six-point game again.
New Zealand claimed a third try as Manu completed a fine flowing move by cutting in from the left and Rapana tied the game at 18-18 with 15 minutes to go.
Fiji were penalized for stripping the ball in the tackle and Rapana’s penalty gave his side the lead for the first time in the game before scoring their fourth try into the corner to seal the comeback win, even if he failed to add the conversion.