Roger Tuivasa-Sheck looks on in shock after New Zealand’s loss.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck looks on in shock after New Zealand’s loss.

The moment New Zealand self-destructed

FIJI were in it up to their ears by the time panic set in for the Kiwis and they hit the self-destruct button, losing to a tier-two nation for the second consecutive week in a dismal World Cup.

After their shock loss to Tonga last week, New Zealand seemed to take a conservative approach to their quarter final and when that didn't work there was no sign of a Plan B.

The Kiwis were criticised by Benji Marshall at half-time on Channel 7's coverage of the match, with the legendary playmaker disappointed with their bash and crash tactics that left little room for creativity.

Little did he or anyone else know that 40 minutes later the Kiwis would be a national embarrassment after being bundled out of the tournament in arguably the biggest shock in tournament history.

And the moment it started to look possible came in the 47th minute when star winger Jordan Rapana was sent to the sin bin with scores level at 2-all.

It was just two minutes after New Zealand had drawn level through a Shaun Johnson penalty goal and with the home side starting to take some ascendancy, Fijian captain Kevin Naiqama broke the game open with a brilliant kick return.

Naiqama picked the ball up deep in his own half only to beat several Kiwis chasers with a burst of acceleration and footwork before bursting into open field and linking with fellow danger man Suliasi Vunivalu.

Danny Levi reflects on what might have been.
Danny Levi reflects on what might have been.

The premiership winning winger pinned his ears back and swerved back towards centrefield before being dragged down by three desperate tacklers, one of whom was Rapana.

Both he and Johnson lay on top of Vunivalu for far too long giving away an obvious penalty and giving referee Matt Cecchin no option but to send at least one of them to the bin for a professional foul.

Rapana was the chosen one and there only ever looked to be one winner from then on in.

Sadly for the home fans, that wasn't the Kiwis.

For a team of New Zealand's talent to show so little initiative and attacking firepower is an indictment on a side that in truth has been on the slide since David Kidwell took over.

Perhaps it wasn't Rapana's sin binning that lost them the game but the negative decision a couple of minutes earlier to use a penalty in good field position to level the game rather than backing themselves to score a try.

In years past a team with the attacking talents of Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck just to name the catalysts would never have taken a penalty goal against a tier-two nation, even from behind on the scoreboard.

It's a decision that gives the opposition confidence, believing that their defensive wall is too strong to break down.

So it proved.