Five key points in Fiji Bati win
20 November, 2017, 12:00 am
FIJI Bati outclassed the New Zealand Kiwis to emerge 4-2 winners in a try-less World Cup quarter-final at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday night. Here are the five key points from the historic match.
Brilliant Bati march on
After powering through pool play with three comfortable victories, Fiji found another level when required against New Zealand and will head into Friday night’s semi-final against Australia riding a wave of confidence.
Fiji dominated all bar 10 minutes of the clash against the Kiwis, enjoying 54 per cent possession and the lion’s share of the attacking opportunities, yet for a number of reasons couldn’t get over the line.
While lesser teams would have been frustrated into errors, Fiji just kept plugging away and took their opportunities to kick points when they presented themselves, showing complete confidence in their side in the process.
Five-eighth Jarryd Hayne put the victory down to his side’s close bond.
“It’s not talent, it’s not ability, it’s our belief,” Hayne said.
“We don’t have the most talent or the most abilityâ€¦ it’s overwhelming.”
Kiwis near historic low
Just two years on from New Zealand ruling world rugby league, they bowed out of the 2017 World Cup without so much as a whimper, crashing to back-to-back defeats at the hands of tier-two nations.
After holding the world No.1 tag as recently as last year’s Four Nations tournament, the Kiwis looked impressive in their opening two matches on home soil, but failed to fire a shot when the quality stepped up against Tonga and Fiji.
While New Zealand have endured tougher periods with prolonged losing streaks and blowout defeats in the past, 2017 will go down as one of their darkest years given the history they have made for all the wrong reasons.
Bati no one-trick pony
They have already shown enough to suggest they will be able to foot it with any team at the tournament when it comes to attack, but on Saturday night Fiji displayed a defensive grit which should have the tournament’s remaining teams on alert.
New Zealand looked destined to score tries on a number of occasions across the 80 minutes, often shooting themselves in the foot with errors, but were just as regularly denied by desperate scrambling defence.
Late in the game the Kiwis started to get a roll on, forcing the Bati into a number of goal-line stands which they handled brilliantly. It is sure to do wonders for their confidence ahead of meeting the defending champions, and coach Mick Potter’s men now know they can match it with the big guns on both sides of the footy.
New Zealand steamrolled
The Kiwis had no answer for Fiji in the middle of the park, failing to achieve parity in that area at any point in Wellington.
Provisional stats show not a single starting forward for New Zealand managed to go over the 100-metre mark, with interchange man Isaac Liu the only one of their big men to achieve the target. All up, coach David Kidwell’s side managed just 1312 metres gained, compared with Fiji’s 1541, and the middle unit simply didn’t give their spine a chance to show their class.
While they were missing usual frontline forwards Jason Taumalolo, Jesse Bromwich, Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris, New Zealand still had enough talent on paper to hold their own.
Form guide thrown out
Heading into Saturday night’s match, Fiji and New Zealand were easily the two best attacking teams at the World Cup and had scored a combined 57 tries between them across their six pools games.
Fiji also boasted 38 line breaks in that period, leaving many to conclude their quarter-final against the Kiwis would be both open and high-scoring.
Instead a gritty slugfest through the middle of the park ensued, with attacking chances rare, and execution lacking from both sides. The final 4-2 result equals the record for the lowest-scoring World Cup match ever played, drawing even with Great Britain’s 6-0 win over France in 1970