NZ turn table on Fiji to claim fifth in Sydney

World Rugby

Lynn McConnell     28 Jan 2018     World Rugby

That win proved significant in allowing New Zealand to hold second place on the overall points table with 54 points, four behind South Africa who were beaten by Australia in the final. Australia are third overall on 43 points.

It was a strong finish for the New Zealanders after they were knocked out of the tournament reckoning by Australia 24-12 in their quarter-final which started the day.
But in the playoff for fifth, they struck early with Caleb Clarke giving a hint of his possible future potential when scoring the first try. Pressure mounted on the Fijians who were guilty of making rash decisions which didn't come off in this instance.

They backed that up when Vilimoni Koroi put a well-placed kick through for Sione Molia to score the second.

Koroi had his own reward after New Zealand claimed a lineout and then won a penalty advantage in front of Fiji's goalposts allowing Koroi to snipe from the base of the ruck and score on his own. Then, just before halftime Regan Ware built on some good work by Luke Masirewa in midfield to give New Zealand a 26-0 lead at the turn.

Fiji looked to make a strong start to the second half but more turnovers gave New Zealand the ball and from a lineout an orthodox move saw space open up for Tim Mikkelson and he took an outside gap to outspeed the defence and score.

Fiji finally got on the board when Eroni Sau rounded off the only genuine try scoring play from his side with a strong run at the line.

Earlier, in their quarterfinal Australia denied New Zealand a semi-final place. New Zealand scored first when Koroi crossed after Mikkelson secured an intercept and cleared the ball quickly to Koroi.

However, it was a ball dropped in a tackle soon after by Mikkelson that allowed Australia to score through Ben O'Donnell picking up at the base of the breakdown to take a gap and score.

Then, just before halftime an orthodox move from a lineout following a penalty conceded by Scott Curry, who completed a miraculous recovery after a bad injury on Saturday, in the tackle and James Stannard doubled around to give Charlie Taylor the impetus to score in the corner.

At the start of the second half Koroi worked the ball at the breakdown to open up a gap on the blindside to get through for the try. Andrew Knewstubb's conversion levelled the scores at 12-12.

Maurice Longbottom was introduced as a substitute when Australia were presented a scrum and at his first touch he cut back close to the scrum and put his speed to use to race into space.

New Zealand looked to run the ball from depth to stay alive but the ball was turned over in front of the posts and Lewis Holland scored to advance.

New Zealand were left to play England in the hunt to play off for fifth place and stay among the leaders on the overall ladder.

There were some anxious moments when both Curry and Teddy Stanaway had tries disallowed and inevitably it was England who took their chance to score first when Ethan Waddleton got over wide out.

Going into the second half New Zealand maintained their composure and worked the ball around. When Kurt Baker lobbed a long ball to Masirewa on the right flank, he took the ball and got over for the equalising try.

What proved the winning advantage was achieved when from a basic scrum move, Joe Ravouvou was on the end of another long ball from Baker to cross wide out for the 10-5 win.