NZ survives Fiji scare to confirm semis clash with Australia

HULL, England (AP) — New Zealand confirmed a semifinal showdown with Australia at the Rugby League World Cup only after surviving a major scare from Fiji on Saturday.

Jordan Rapana’s late try sealed a 24-18 win for the Kiwis in their quarterfinal in Hull.

Meanwhile, England defeated Papua New Guinea 46-6 in Wigan with winger Tommy Makinson scoring five of their nine tries.

In a semifinal in London next Saturday, England will face Samoa or Tonga, who meet in the last quarterfinal on Sunday at Warrington.

Fiji led the Kiwis for much of their quarterfinal but Rapana kicked a late penalty to put his side ahead for the first time then claimed the clinching try.

The Fijians ended the first half 12-6 in front with tries from Maika Sivo and Kevin Naiqama, both converted by Brandon Wakeham.

New Zealand pulled a try back late in the half when Ronaldo Mulitalo touched down and Rapana converted as they struggled to impose themselves on the game.

Naiqama scored his second try early in the second half but New Zealand quickly replied through Briton Nikora.

Joseph Manu’s try and a third conversion from Rapana meant it was all to play for with 15 minutes remaining.

“There’s a lot of pride behind these jerseys — heritage, culture, family — especially with the Pacific Island nations,” Manu said. “That’s why Fiji turn up, and also us, too.

“It was always going to be a body-on-the-line sort of game. It was awesome. It was good to see one of those matches. From a fans’ point of view I guess it was nice to see a close match, but from a players’ point of view it was really tough and fatiguing.”

New Zealand and Australia, winners of the last nine World Cups, will meet on Friday in Leeds.

England coach Shaun Wane described the first half-hour against PNG as the finest of his coaching career.

England completed 13 straight sets and led 38-0 after 24 minutes. The Kumuls rallied to avoid total humiliation in front of a crowd of 23,179 which included the Princess of Wales.

Makinson added five conversions to his five tries — an England World Cup record — to finish with 30 points.

“I do genuinely believe that we can get better,” Wane said. “Our start was faultless.”

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