Kiwis survive RLWC scare to edge past Fiji

Jordan Rapana is congratulated by Ronaldo Mulitalo. Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

New Zealand have bumbled their way into a Rugby League World Cup semi-final against Australia after claiming an unconvincing 24-18 win over Fiji in Hull.

Fiji threatened to cause the upset of the World Cup and send the heavily-fancied Kiwis home at the quarter-final stage for a second-straight tournament when they led 18-6 early in the second half before the scores were tied at the 70th minute mark.

A tryscoring double from Kevin Naiqama had given Fiji hope of an unlikely victory, but a late penalty goal from Jordan Rapana allowed Michael Maguire's men to take the lead for the first time with 10 minutes left.

Rapana then barged his way over for a try with the final play of the game.

But New Zealand will have to drastically improve if they are to beat Australia when they meet in Leeds next Friday (Saturday AEDT).

The Kiwis failed to match Fiji for enthusiasm in front of a 7080 strong crowd at MKM Stadium, with Maika Sivo crashing over in the 11th minute to give the Bati an early lead.

Naiqama followed him over not long after with Brandon Wakeham converting both efforts.

Wakeham's partnership with Api Koroisau in the halves caused New Zealand endless problems.

The Fijians were happy to run the ball on the last tackle and New Zealand struggled to react to the kick-averse tactics.

Winger Ronaldo Mutalilo did hit back for New Zealand with a well-taken finish in the corner, with Rapana converting to make it 12-6 at the break.

Straight after half-time Naiqama found himself at dummy-half 20 metres out from the New Zealand line and, with a show-and-go, sprinted down the touchline before forcing his way over the whitewash for his second try.

Their 12-point advantage was shortlived, however, with New Zealand forward Briton Nikora bursting his way over from close-range and Rapana converting.

Despite their lead, Fiji were out on their feet and with 15 minutes to go Kiwis fullback Joey Manu crashed his way over to score under the posts, Rapana converting to tie the scores up.

In the 70th minute Manu made a late burst upfield and was adjudicated to have knocked on by referee Gerard Sutton.

The Kiwis challenged and on review, video referee Tom Grant deemed that Fiji back-rower Viliame Kikau had made an illegal ball steal.

New Zealand opted to take the shot at goal, Rapana sending the ball sailing between the uprights to give the Kiwis a slender lead before he crossed in the dying stages.