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New Zealand survives giant scare against Fiji in RLWC

New Zealand v Fiji Rugby League World Cup

New Zealand survived a giant scare to set up a semi-final Rugby League World Cup rumble against Australia after overcoming a spirited Fiji 24-18 at Hull in the UK early this morning.

The unlikely hero of the thrilling win was make-shift Kiwi goal kicker Jordan Rapana who landed a 30-meter penalty to break an 18-all deadlock with 10 minutes remaining.

Rapana then iced the win by crashing over in the right-hand corner in the 79th minute to send the Kiwi into a blockbuster semi-final against the Kangaroos.

The Bati threatened the first upset of this World Cup when they raced to a shock 12-0 lead through tries to blockbusting winger Maiko Siva who crashed over in the 11th minute and veteran Kevin Naqaima six minutes later.

Both were converted by Fijian super boot Brandon Wakeham who took his streak to 14 goals in a row.

Fiji had been a nemesis for the Kiwis in the past (2017) and they jumped the hot favorites from the start today in a high-class opening 40 minutes.

They went into the break leading 12-6 with the Kiwis clearly shellshocked by their aggressive start.

Fiji’s oldest player, Naqaima, 33, and its youngest, Sunia Taruva, 20, starred for the Bati and did everything to get their South Pacific nation home.

Taruva, a future star with Penrith, was everywhere, saving tries and setting them up with a clever pass to a flying Naqaima as well as pulling off some crucial tackles in defence.

He even had the audacity to have a crack at giant Kiwi forward Joseph Tapine in the first half before teammates came to his defence.

It was a highly emotional farewell for Naqaima, playing his 24th and final Test for Fiji.

He scored two tries and was in tears after the game after going so close to winning.

Rapana’s 70th-minute penalty was highly controversial with the bunker ruling Villame Kikau had stripped the ball from Kiwi fullback Joey Manu after New Zealand lodged a captain’s challenge

Fortunately, the controversial stripping penalty decision did not decide the result with Rapana icing the win with a try in the 79th minute.

Manu who was close to the player of the match said they expected a tough game from Fiji who upset them in the 2017 World Cup.

“We’ve got a week to work on some things and we will be ready (for Australia),” he told Fox.
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