The Fijians dominated much of the game, restricting the Kiwis for field position in a game where defences were on top throughout.
Jordan Rapana was sin-binned on forty-six for a professional foul, stopping a quick Fiji play-the-ball as New Zealand defenders tried to get back to cover after a lightening fast break.
A knock-on from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was then compounded by an offside penalty, with Fiji looking to the posts again to re-assume the lead with 18 minutes to go. The test for both sides is where they sit at the end of 80 minutes – the Kiwis need to maintain their intensity throughout, while Fiji has to shift their mindset towards a resolve in defence on par with how they thrive with the ball in hand.
Kevin Naiqama (c), 2.
When New Zealand held down in the tackle on their own twenty, Apisai Koroisau kicked the penalty goal to edge Fiji into the lead at 2-0.
New Zealand was expected to deal with Fiji but the Bati pulled off a huge shock to send the Kiwis crashing out.
The result leaves the Kiwis to pick up the pieces from a campaign that fell to pieces after two promising but ultimately deceiving first-up pool wins over strugglers Samoa and Scotland, while Fiji advance to a semi-final against Australia at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium next Friday. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Taane Milne, 4.
In the 19th minute the Kiwis had made 90 tackles the Fiji’s 20 and enjoyed only 30 per cent of the possession.
A solid opening set from both teams, Shaun Johnson puts in a brilliant floating bomb – but Kevin Naiqama makes and excellent take and gets Fiji out of trouble.
But he admits his team will have to step up a notch defensively in Wellington against a Kiwis team still smarting from last week’s 28-22 pool play loss to Tonga.
She said they divided themselves in groups and would be taking turns in hosting the Fiji Bati leading up to the match on Saturday in Wellington.
New Zealand coach David Kidwell has reacted to his side’s defeat by Tonga by axing Wigan hooker Thomas Leuluai and promoting stand-off Te Maire Martin to the starting line-up for the game in Wellington.
But that proved to be enough as they held on to reach a third successive semi-final.
Kiwis: Tuivasa-Sheck, Watene-Zelezniak, Whare, Takairangi, Rapana, Martin, Johnson, Taupau, Levi, Waerea-Hargreaves, Mannering, Tapine, Blair.
Interchange: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Russell Packer, Isaac Liu, Kodi Nikorima.