Fiji shocks NZ, Tonga edges Lebanon to reach WCup semis
Nov. 18, 2017
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Fiji pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Rugby League World Cup history Saturday when it beat tournament co-hosts New Zealand 4-2 in the quarterfinals.
In a rare tryless match in which all the points came from penalties, Fiji held out the highly favored Kiwis and will now face defending champion Australia in next weekend's semifinals. Australia thrashed Samoa 46-0 on Friday.
Earlier, Tonga — who had upset New Zealand in the pool phase — edged Lebanon 24-22 to remain undefeated and earn a semifinal against the winner of Sunday's last quarterfinal between England and Papua New Guinea.
Tonga's win over New Zealand in Pool B was the first-ever by a tier two nation over one of the sport's tier-one powerhouses at a World Cup but Fiji's shock win was perhaps even more surprising because of the higher stakes.
Apisai Koroisau put Fiji ahead with a penalty in the 14th minute, the only points of the first half. New Zealand leveled the scores with a penalty to Shaun Johnson four minutes into the second half but Taane Milne put the Pacific Islanders back in front for good with his 61st minute goal.
"It's indescribable," Fiji captain Kevin Naiqama said. "I'm so proud of these boys.
"I've had so much belief in them from the moment we went into camp. I've never stopped believing. I always said that we can win this game and it's just a dream came true to get it done."
New Zealand captain Adam Blair congratulated Fiji for winning, saying his team knew they would be in for a tough match.
"This is what you expect in these quarterfinal games," Blair said. "It's do or die.
"We put it out there on the line but you've got to give it to Fiji, they played hard, they played tough."
Fiji qualifies for the semifinals for the third time in a row while New Zealand, world champions in 2000, failed to reach the semifinals for the first time since the tournament was expanded in 1995.
Tonga, whose win over New Zealand allowed them to finish top on Group B, narrowly avoided being upset as they held on grimly to edge a Lebanon team, made up mostly of part-timers and semi-professionals.
Lebanon trailed 22-16 at halftime after Tonga ran in four early tries, two to powerful winger David Fusitu'a and one each from Tuimoala Lolohea and William Hopoate.
Lebanon scored three times in the first half, through Adam Douelhi, James Elias and rugged winger Abbas Miski, and cut the deficit to two points when Miski scored the only try of the second half with just over 10 minutes to go.
Lebanon also had another try disallowed for obstruction which allowed a rapidly tiring Tonga to hold on for the win.
"It's pretty heartbreaking at the moment," said Mitchell Moses, one of a handful of professionals in the Lebanon team. "A few calls didn't go our way and there was a try opportunity there but we've had those kind of calls not go our way the whole tournament.
"It's just heartbreaking to see how hard the boys worked and to be pulled up with some calls which weren't right was disappointing. We'll hold our heads high but we're knocked out of the tournament now."