New Zealand fans in ugly 'bias' claims after Rugby League World Cup loss

Referee Ashley Klein's performance came under fire in New Zealand's heartbreaking loss to Australia in the Rugby League World Cup semi-final. Pic: Getty/AAP
Referee Ashley Klein's performance came under fire in New Zealand's heartbreaking loss to Australia in the Rugby League World Cup semi-final. Pic: Getty/AAP

Angry fans have flooded social media with claims of 'bias' after Australia's thrilling Rugby League World Cup win over New Zealand in Leeds.

The Kangaroos overturned a four-point halftime deficit to prevail 16-14 in a tense victory over their trans-Tasman rivals at Elland Road on Friday night (Saturday AEDT).

'DISRESPECTFUL': NZ star blasts World Cup move before Aussie semi-final

'SO DANGEROUS': Joseph Suaalii under fire over League World Cup drama

Many league fans around the world were less than impressed with some of the decisions from officials that went against the New Zealand side.

New Zealand were denied two tries by the video referee, with Peta Hiku at the centre of both incidents for the Kiwi side.

Seen here, Peta Hiku goes close to scoring a try for New Zealand in their semi-final defeat to Australia at the Rugby League World Cup.
Peta Hiku had two tries chalked off for New Zealand in their semi-final defeat to Australia at the Rugby League World Cup. Pic: Getty

The first of Hiku's disallowed tries was certainly contentious, with the video official ruling that Jordan Rapana was off-side from a Jahrome Hughes kick before he set up his teammate.

“I’m not convinced,” Fox Sports commentator Andrew Voss said after seeing replays of the angles used to determine that Rapana was in front of Hughes when he kicked the ball.

The second four-pointer that Hiku almost scored was far less controversial, with the Kiwi flyer unable to stop himself from going into touch and gathering the ball to touch down from another Hughes kick into the corner.

Referee Ashley Klein was also accused by many viewers of "bias", with claims the NRL whistleblower favoured the Kangaroos on a number of crucial calls.

Viewers claimed Kangaroos players Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Liam Martin were both guilty of producing shoulder charges that went unpunished by the referee, with many taking to social media in uproar.

The Kiwis had endured an underwhelming tournament to date, but saved their best for last when they pushed the Kangaroos to the wire in front of 28,113 fans at Elland Road.

Australia will now play the winner of Saturday's (Sunday AEDT) other semi-final between England and Samoa next week at Old Trafford.

Kiwis coach Michael Maguire rolled the dice, moving Nelson Asofa-Solomona back to the bench, dropping Kenny Bromwich and deploying Isaiah Papali'i and Briton Nikora in the back-row.

One of Papali'i's early probing runs down the left led to their opening try after 11 minutes.

Dylan Brown poked a chip-kick just short of the Australian line with Joey Manu climbing high to bat the ball back into the hands of Hughes.

The Kiwis halfback squeezed his way over the line and winger Rapana was able to convert.

The veteran Canberra star was a nuisance out of his own end but had a moment to forget when he was caught off guard by the kicking game of Ben Hunt.

Aussie comeback stuns NZ in Leeds

The Australian hooker sent a speculative crossfield kick over Rapana's head and Josh Addo-Carr was able to score his 12th try of the tournament, matching the record set by Australian winger Valentine Holmes in the 2017 World Cup.

Nathan Cleary converted to tie the game at 6-6 before Rapana nudged the Kiwis ahead with a penalty for an offside.

Holmes hit back for Australia on the half-hour mark, but a lightning-quick run from Ronaldo Mulitalo down the touchline led to Brown going over just before the break to give the Kiwis a 14-10 lead.

It was the first time Australia had conceded from open play in this tournament and meant they went in at the break behind on the scoreboard for the first time since 2015.

New Zealand went close to extending their lead just after the interval when centre Hiku touched down, only for video referee Chris Kendall to rule it out for offside against Rapana.

Australia got their reward when Manu was penalised by referee Ashley Klein for lying in the ruck on the Kiwis' line and Cameron Murray crashed over on a one-up hit-up in the 52nd minute.

Tempers begun to fray. Papali'i screamed in Cleary's face after he spilled the ball and Liam Martin sparked a melee when he forced Asofa-Solomona into a loose carry.

Neither side was able to put the game to bed and New Zealand were given the strongest chance when Rapana went on a cavalier run from the backfield, only for Hiku to come up just short with the put-down from Hughes' kick.

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.