Fiji and Tonga have broken the dominance of international rugby league’s ‘big three’ by qualifying for the Rugby League World Cup 2017 semi-finals via upset victories over 2008 trophy holders New Zealand.
A week after Tonga demoted the Kiwis to second place on the Pool B ladder with a 28-22 victory, Fiji knocked the New Zealanders out of the competition with a 4-2 try-less victory which was far more exciting than the score-line suggests.
It is the third successive time the Fiji Bati have made the World Cup semi-finals, and they again take on the all-conquering Kangaroos as they did before more than 65,000 at Wembley Stadium in 2013 and in 2008 at Sydney Football Stadium.
Prop Ashton Sims and winger Akuila Uate are set to become the only two players to represent Fiji on all three semi-final occasions.
Tonga was the first Pacific nation into the semi-finals, courtesy of an enthralling 24-22 victory over Lebanon which began the tournament ranked 18 in the world but departs with huge admiration and hope for the future after a 29-18 win against France, a 29-10 loss to England, 34-0 loss to Australia and the two-point defeat to giant-killer Tonga.
The quarter-finals were launched with Australia disposing of 46-0 before a sell-out crowd of over 13,000 in Darwin final in the first Test match played in the Northern Territory. It moved the Kangaroos one step closer to their 13th successive World Cup.
The first weekend of the finals was completed with yet another entertaining clash in Melbourne, won 36-6 by England over Papua New Guinea.
Holmes scores five in historic clash
Kangaroos winger Valentine Holmes helped himself to five tries, and Billy Slater two, in Australia’s outstanding performance in tough tropical conditions in Darwin’s first international game.
The Roos ran out 46-0 winners against a Samoan side that departed the tournament winless.
TIO Stadium, Darwin
Australia Kangaroos 46 (Valentine Holmes 5, Michael Morgan 2, Billy Slater tries; Cameron Smith 7 conversions).
Toa Samoa 0.
Halftime: 30-0 Kangaroos.
Referee: Phil Bentham (England).
Fiji shocks Kiwis in Wellington
The free-flowing Fijians may not have scored a try but their pride and emotion took them to victory over New Zealand in Wellington, 4-2.
It means the Kiwis will not play in a World Cup final for the first time since 1995.
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Fiji Bati 4 (Apisai Koroisau penalty; Taane Milne penalty).
New Zealand Kiwis 2 (Shaun Johnson penalty).
Halftime: 2-0 Bati.
Referee: Matt Cecchin (Australia).
Tongans forced to work hard
Tonga may have recorded its fourth successive victory in this tournament but the result was much closer than many predicted as it scraped past Lebanon 24-22.
Each team scored four tries (three each converted) before the game was ultimately decided by a penalty
AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Mate Ma’a Tonga 24 (David Fusitu'a 2, Tuimoala Lolohea, Will Hopoate tries; Ata Hingano 3 conversions, penalty).
Lebanon Cedars 22 (Abbas Miski 2, Adam Doueihi, James Elias tries; Mitchell Moses 3 conversions).
Halftime: 22-16 Tonga.
Referee: Gerard Sutton (Australia)
Captain-less Kumuls no match for England
Papua New Guinea’s chances of an upset against England were ruined after losing captain David Mead in the opening minutes.
Completion rates for both sides was poor, however England showed some genuine flair in a seven-tries-to-one victory.
AAMI Park, Melbourne
England Lions 36 (Jermaine McGillvary 2, Kallum Watkins 2, Alex Walmsley, Ben Currie, Ryan Hall tries; Gareth Widdop 4 conversions).
Papua New Guinea Kumuls 6 (Garry Lo try; Rhyse Martin conversion).
Halftime: 14-0 Lions.
Referee: James Child (England).
Australia Kangaroos v Fiji Bati
7.00pm, Friday, November 24
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Mate Ma'a Tonga v England Lions
6.00pm, Saturday, November 25
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Jillaroos and Ferns in command, Ravens win
Australia continued its dominance with a 38-0 victory over England, following the 58-4 win against Cook Islands in the opening round.
New Zealand has thrown down the challenge, however, with a 76-0 win against the Cooks, after opening the tournament with a 50-4 victory against Canada.
And Canada earned its first points of the tournament with a 22-8 victory over PNG in the final match of Sunday’s tripleheader.
Southern Cross Stadium, Sydney
Australia Jillaroos 38 (Meg Ward 2, Isabelle Kelly, Nakia Davis-Welsh, Chelsea Baker, Elianna Walton, Kezie Apps, Caitlyn Moran tries; Chelsea Baker 2 conversions; Caitlyn Moran conversion).
England Lionesses 0.
Halftime: 24-0 Jillaroos.
Referee: Todd Smith (Australia).
Canada Ravens 22 (Natasha Smith 3, Sabrina McDaid tries; Irene Patrinos 2 conversions; Sabrina McDaid conversion).
Papua New Guinea Orchids 8 (Christie Bulhage, Martha Karl tries).
Halftime: 10-4 Ravens.
Referee: Joey Butler (Australia).
New Zealand Kiwi Ferns 76 (Honey Hireme 6, Raecene McGregor 2, Shontelle Woodman 2, Krystal Murray 2, Lilieta Maumau, Nita Maynard tries; Kimiora Nati 10 conversions).
Cook Islands 0.
Halftime: 38-0 Kiwi Ferns.
Referee: Bianca Zietsmen (Wales).
WRLWC2017 | THIRD-ROUND DRAW
Wednesday, 22 November
Southern Cross Group Stadium
12.45pm | England v Cook Islands
3.00pm | Canada v Australia
5.30pm | New Zealand v PNG