The Kiwis came up against the god-fearing nation of Fiji last night and realised sometimes it just pays to be humble.

The 4-2 result - a scoreline the All Whites will take every time in soccer - to Fiji Bati in the Rugby League World Cup quarterfinal in Wellington was a slap in the face for the hosts.

The immediate reaction from many, including the media, after the 28-22 loss to Mate Ma'a Tonga the previous Saturday, was that the David Kidwell-coached New Zealanders were going to have to play the Australian Kangaroos in the semifinals.

Oops ... how horribly far off the mark can anyone ever be, even if sport grants licence to be patriotic, but last night was plain embarrassing.


It's time for Kidwell to do the honorable thing - walk the plank so someone else can begin a soul-searching exercise to see who really wants to pull on a Kiwis jersey.

Shell-shocked SkySport TV commentator Stephen McIvor and his panel of former Kiwis international coach Brian "Bluey" McClennan and ex-player Brent Webb labelled the host players "plain dumb" after the final whistle.

That's unfair. They all are players who have earned the right to grace the international arena and, as McClennan rightly pointed out, some - such as Simon Mannering - should not be tarred with the same brush.

I have been an advocate of the injection of Kidwell's staunch in-your-face mongrel mentality in the Kiwis' camp but elevating him to head coach has been a mistake.

He appeared to have put all his eggs in the Jason Taumalolo basket.

The Adam Blair-skippered Kiwis were stumped last night and bereft of ideas. That smacked of smugness from a rudderless side who lacked a game plan and, more importantly, didn't have a plan B when the armwrestle against Fiji seemed to be an ill-conceived idea.

Any suggestions that the Kiwis' ineptness is the key to the erosion of New Zealand's supremacy also is an insult to Fiji Bati. It's time to swallow humble pie, as unpalatable as that may seem, to recognise how the undefeated Pacific Islanders just didn't give them time, room or energy to think, let alone get away from their own try line.

Here's a tip for Blair - you don't attend any interview in life with chewing gum in your mouth. Have some respect, mate, for your country if not yourself.


The Bati dominated in every facet of play except on the scoreboard. A lottery win to the Kiwis would have been a gross injustice to not only Fiji but the sport in only the second non-try-scoring match in test history which also was a humdinger.

Did Fiji coach Mick Potter coach the flair out of his troops in trying to instil zero-tolerance to ill discipline?

Hey, it's hard to scrutinise a team who have an unblemished record and maintained it travelling from sultry Townsville, Australia, to the wintry climes of the Cake Tin and will now jet back to a steamy Brisbane to face the overwhelming favourites and defending champions Australia in the coming weekend.

A good team will always go back to a whiteboard session in the conference room of their hotel, even after winning. Taking gimme penalty kicks for points when it's obvious tries are scarce is intelligent footy.

Fiji playmaker Jarryd Hayne will have to take a hard look at himself because he should have been the difference in the history-making islanders crossing the try line.

It'll also be interesting to see how the referees control the semifinal against Kangaroos, if some of last night's decisions were anything to go by. The reassuring thing was, apart from one back-chat incident from Hayne that cost Fiji a penalty near their tryline, their quiet acceptance of rulings even when they were hard to stomach in the face of overwhelming evidence.

The Kiwis did everything to negate Hayne's impact and that's probably why the Gold Coast Titans poster boy stayed out of the busy intersections but the only excusable reason is that he's harbouring an injury so his mere presence on the field as the little general is paramount to Fiji's success.

The Bati simply bullied the Kiwis on the park with their burly, mobile forward pack but they'll need to employ some Fijian flair if they are to continue their giant-killing run against Australia in realising their pre-campaign quest "to win the World Cup".

Prolific Melbourne Storm try scorer Suliasi Vunivalu's tactics of straying into the middle of the park to help out his tiring pack was commendable but using him out wide for impact also should be on the agenda.

If Kidwell wanted a snapshot of smart footy then he only needed to catch a glimpse of how the lighter Brad Fittler-coached Lebanon countered the might of Tonga in their 24-22 quarterfinal loss earlier in Christchurch.

But passion is hard to identify, never mind quantify in a team who worship at the altar of money deities, especially when some players walk off after consecutive losses devoid of emotion.

Fiji captain Kevin Naiqama , a serial sobber, winger Marcelo Montoya and interchange second rower Junior Roqica shed tears for their country during their national anthem before the kick off at 7.30pm. Naiqama and Hayne's tear ducts broke their banks again during post-match interviews.

The other teammates wore solemn expressions of a country where the basic unskilled starting wage is F$2.68 an hour and where loyal fans from impoverished neighbourhoods huddle outside the home of a "well-off" neighbour to catch a glimpse of their national heroes.

A teary-eyed Kiwis playmaker, Shaun Johnson, looked distraught but he had nothing to write home about on his performance.

Naiqama got the man-of-the-match award but for me it was big man Viliame Kikau on a night when backs from neither side could cross the line.

Predictably the visitors faced the Kiwis' haka with utmost respect before getting into a huddle for their soul-seeking Noqu Masu (My Prayer).

How confounding is it that the Kiwis had never played Fiji in an international before last night?

That pre-match Potter was asked only two questions and both pertaining to Kiwis also points to more arrogance on home soil, never mind inferior pronunciation of Fijian names.

The islanders only had a smattering of fans compared with Tonga, don't have the handsome sums of money as a motivational tool and most certainly don't have the basic resources.

Yes, they are second-tier nations regardless of their stellar accomplishments in this World Cup. Here's hoping the Kiwis came out wiser after the post-match netball-type huddle for prayers with Fiji.

One would like to think the prospective owners of NZ Warriors had their talent scouts out in the hope of signing up that sort of tenacious defensive effort from a nation not renowned for it.

Kangaroos coach Mel Meninga had promised Fiji and PNG in Suva last month that the Aussies will help boost the South Pacific Islanders' game with Tri-Nation tourneys in future.

It's long overdue.