New Zealand are out of the Rugby League World Cup after suffering a 4-2 defeat against an inspired Fiji Bati side in Wellington.
The Fijians dominated much of the game, restricting the Kiwis for field position in a game where defences were on top throughout.
Neither team managed to get over the line, with Fiji’s two penalty goals to their opponents one proving to be the deciding factor on a damaging night for New Zealand Rugby League.
For Fiji though it was history as they made their third consecutive World Cup semi-final, setting up a date with defending champions Australia in Brisbane next Friday.
They dominated field position in the opening quarter but despite battering the Kiwis line, phenomenal defence from the hosts meant they only had a Apisai Koroisau penalty goal to show for their efforts.
The game continued in the same style for the remainder of the half, with Kiwis full-back Roger Tuivasa-Sheck producing two try-saving tackles, one was a last-ditch effort on Brayden Wiliame as the back-rower went to ground the ball.
With limited possession in the Fijians half and having defended for much of the first 40 minutes, Kiwis head coach David Kidwell will have been pleased to go into half-time only 2-0 down.
The hosts inevitably got better field position after the restart and just five minutes in Shaun Johnson kicked a penalty to level the scores.
However, Fiji came back from the kick-off with phenomenal defence and as Kevin Naiqama returned the ball with intent, he passed to Suliasi Vunivalu who drew a professional foul from Jordan Rapana – the winger sent to the sin-bin by referee Matt Cecchin.
Moments later it looked like the Fijians were final over the line, but Wiliame was again unable to get the ball down legally, this time promoting the ball with a double movement.
Unable to break the 12-man Kiwis down, Fiji did retake the lead on the hour mark through another penalty goal, this time Taane Milne slotting the ball between the posts with Koroisau off the field.
Incredibly these were the final points of the game as the Kiwis briefly threatened, but Fiji held on to claim an unlikely victory and secure their third World Cup semi-final in three years.
Kiwis: Tuivasa-Sheck, Watene-Zelezniak, Whare, Takairangi, Rapana, Martin, Johnson, Taupau, Levi, Waerea-Hargreaves, Mannering, Tapine, Blair. Interchange: Asofa-Solomona, Packer, Liu, Nikorima.
Fiji: Naiqama, Vunivalu, Milne, Uate, Montoya, Hayne, Raiwalui, Sims, Koroisau, Vunakece, Kikau, Wiliame, Kamikamica. Interchange: Lovodua, Saifiti, Roqica, Nakubuwai.
Credit: NRL Photos