Controversial captain’s challenge call helps New Zealand beat courageous Fiji

New Zealand are through to the Rugby League World Cup semi-final to play Australia at Elland Road on Friday, but it wasn’t without a massive scare and a huge slice of luck.

Playing against Fiji, the team who knocked them out at the quarter-final stage of the last World Cup, the Kiwis were expected to win comfortably at Hull’s MKM Stadium but it didn’t work out that way.

Fiji were exceptional from the outset and they raced into a 12-0 lead thanks to tries from Maika Sivo and Huddersfield-bound Kevin Naiqama.

Ronaldo Mulitalo responded for the Kiwis before half-time but the Fijians opened up a two score lead again after the break thanks to that man Naiqama again, who certainly looks in good shape ahead of his move to the Giants.

Michael Maguire’s New Zealand needed a response and they got one as back-to-back tries from Briton Nikora and man of the match Joey Manu, leaving the scores at 18-18 going into the final 10 minutes.

But then came controversy as referee Gerard Sutton awarded a knock-on against a charging Manu, with the Kiwis using their captain’s challenge to try overturn the call.

The replay showed Fiji back-rower Viliame Kikau have a flick at the ball, but many believed the loss of possession to be a loose carry by Manu who convinced his team to challenge.

However, video referee Tom Grant believed there was enough evidence for a ball steel and New Zealand were awarded a penalty 30 metres out in the middle of the field.

Jordan Rapana kicked the penalty to put his side 20-18 and despite chances to hit back, Fiji were unable to find the right plays on the Kiwis line to claim another memorable upset.

Winger Rapana scored in the corner with the final play of the game to give the scoreline a slightly flattering look for the Kiwis, who were well below par and will have to improve considerably if they are to beat Australia next weekend.

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