Kiwis survive big scare to face Kangaroos

Bailed out by the brilliance of Joey Manu, New Zealand coach Michael Maguire says his side must fix up their act sharpish after scraping into a Rugby League World Cup semi-final with Australia following an unconvincing 24-18 win over Fiji.

It took until the 70th minute at Hull's MKM Stadium on Saturday for Maguire's side to hit the lead after an underwhelming showing which would have done little to worry Mal Meninga's Kangaroos.

The tightness of the game brought back memories of the 2017 quarter-final when the Kiwis were knocked out by Fiji at the same stage, costing then-coach David Kidwell his job.

But this time Maguire's men were saved by the mercurial abilities of Manu.

The fullback, who was named man of the match and clocked over 300 metres with the ball in hand, got them out of jail by scoring the try which drew them level at 18-18.

He then won the penalty goal which helped them hit the lead, before a late Jordan Rapana try sealed the victory and booked them a place in the semi-finals at Elland Road on Friday.

"It aged me a bit," Maguire said. "It wasn't the style we would've liked to have played but they stuck to the plan and got through.

"We need to get better and the start, they jumped us and you can't do that."

The win puts Manu on a collision course with Sydney Roosters teammate James Tedesco, who appears his closest rival for the Golden Boot.

"He (Manu) did a great job for us and I think he's learning a little bit about the players around him too," Maguire said.

"It's probably the third game that we've had our spine all together, so we'll be better again on the back of that."

Maguire expects the Kiwis to be at full strength for the clash with Australia, with enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves a chance to be unleashed after sitting out the Fiji game under suspension.

They needed his presence in Hull, given they were all at sea in the opening 20 minutes.

Tries to Fiji duo Maika Sivo and Kevin Naiqama allowed the under-fancied Bati to take a shock lead.

Ronaldo Mulitalo hit back for New Zealand before the break but Naiqama then registered a second to open up a 12-point gap at 18-6.

Briton Nikora dived over for the Kiwis not long after, before Manu crashed his way through some tiring Fijian defenders to square it up at 18-18 with a quarter of an hour to go.

Chasing a score, Manu lobbied for a captain's challenge after referee Gerard Sutton had deemed he had knocked on.

Like most things with Manu it came off, the video referee adjudicating that Fiji forward Viliame Kikau had completed a two-on-one steal, allowing Rapana to put the Kiwis ahead with 10 minutes left.

The Kiwis winger then finished in the corner in the dying seconds to secure the win.

"I've got a lot of players in my squad that have played semis and grand finals," Maguire said.

"The step up in game (intensity), that's what it's about, and that's what they want to play."