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Page last updated at 21:26 GMT, Friday, 19 November 2010

Wales 16-16 Fiji

Wales (6) 16
Try: Pen Con: S Jones Pens: Biggar (2), Jones
Fiji (13) 16
Tries: Vulivuli Cons: Bai Pens: Bai (2), Matavesi

Ryan Jones

Highlights - Wales 16-16 Fiji

Wales' woeful form against south sea-island foes continued as a last-gasp Seremaia Bai penalty gave Fiji a draw.

The visitors thrived in a loose, error-strewn first half, the outstanding Albert Vulivuli getting the first try.

Wales brought on Mike Phillips, Stephen Jones, Bradley Davies and Tom Shanklin, while Adam Jones' scrum power proved vital as a penalty try levelled things.

Stephen Jones' penalty put Wales ahead, but Ryan Jones conceded a penalty under a strong Fiji surge and Bai converted.

The first draw in eight meetings between the sides means Wales have gone six Tests without a win, leaving them with little confidence ahead of next week's visit of New Zealand to the Millennium Stadium.

Perhaps of even greater concern is Wales' struggles against the islanders ahead of next year's World Cup, where they meet Fiji and Samoa in the pool stages.

Fiji knocked Wales out of the 2007 World Cup in their last meeting, while the home nation have lost three of their last five against Samoa, including World Cup humiliations in 1991 and 1999.

The islanders made a strong start in Cardiff, Bai rattling the post with an early long-range penalty after a Huw Bennett spear tackle.

Wales, playing in their new navy change strip, slowly worked their way down into the Fiji half and were rewarded with the first points of the night from a Dan Biggar penalty in front of the posts.

That prompted some more adventurous play from Wales, Biggar and George North instigating a break from the home 22.

But Fiji continued to shake the home side with their typically physical approach and drew level when a strong run from centre Vulivuli gave Bai his second penalty opportunity.

Wales' huge advantage at the scrum was evident and man-of-the-match Dan Lydiate impressed, but basic line-out and kicking errors from the home side - who have lost nine of their last 12 Tests - contributed to the scrappy display.

Gatland 'embarrassed' by Welsh display

A rare, measured build-up tempted Bai into a spear tackle on Brew in front of the posts that resulted in a yellow card for the fly-half and a simple kick for his opposite number, Biggar.

The 14-man visitors hit back with a Josh Matavesi penalty, though, as Wales' error-count grew and they squandered the advantage of the sin-bin period.

The profligacy of the home side told four minutes before the break, Jonathan Thomas' deflection from another sloppy line-out - the third lost by the home side - being picked up by the impressive Sisa Koyamaibole.

The giant Sale number eight was hauled down five yards short of the line, but the ball was quickly fired to the right for Vulivuli to crash over under Brew's challenge, with Bai converting the score.

Fiji nearly added to the 55,000 home fans' dismay as wing Vereniki Goneva just missed out on an interception try, before Biggar slid a penalty wide with the last kick of the half.

The errors continued to mount at the start of the second period, and - when Wales failed to capitalise after booting a kickable penalty to touch - coach Warren gatland brought on Tom Shanklin, Bradley Davies, Mike Phillips and Stephen Jones, the latter making his 100th Test appearance.

The quartet helped to raise the tempo as Fiji tired, a flowing move setting up a three-man overlap that was somehow butchered, although Lee Byrne still seemed set for a certain try.

But the outstanding Vulivuli smashed the full-back with a desperate tackle to ground him short of the line, the score ruled out by the video official.

Captain Deacon Manu leads Fiji celebrations at the Millennium Stadium
Captain Deacon Manu leads Fiji celebrations at the Millennium Stadium

Wales looked to put the squeeze on as the resultant five-metre scrum was re-set on multiple occasions, Campese Ma'afu struggling against Adam Jones on the islanders' loose-head.

After two penalties went against Ma'afu, Fiji replaced him with Graham Dewes - the man whose try in 2007 sealed his country's only victory over Wales.

But as the next scrum was again disrupted referee Jerome Garces lost patience and awarded Wales the penalty try, Stephen Jones converting to level the game at 13-13.

With confidence seeming to revive, Wales drove back into the opposition half and Jones slotted over a penalty from in front of the posts to regain the lead.

That proved the final incident of note until the final minute, the rest of the low-quality half played out in the middle areas of the pitch against a back-drop of repeated errors.

But in the closing minutes Fiji drove into the Wales 22, holding the ball through a repeated series of forward drives that eventually won them a penalty as captain Ryan Jones went offside at a ruck.

Bai stepped forward to slot the easy kick that sent his side into raptures and boosted their confidence for the next showdown between the sides, in Waikato on 2 October in the World Cup.

Wales: Byrne, North, Hook, Bishop, Brew, Biggar, R. Rees, James, Bennett, A. Jones, Gough, D. Jones, R. Jones, Lydiate, Thomas.
Replacements: Shanklin for Bishop (9), S. Jones for Biggar (49), Phillips for R. Rees (49), Davies for Gough (49). Not Used: Hibbard, Yapp, Faletau.

Fiji: Matavesi, Tagicakibau, Vulivuli, Lovobalavu, Goneva, Baikeinuku, Kentale, Ma'afu, Veikoso, Manu, I. Rawaqa, Qovu, Saukawa, Ravulo, Koyamaibole.
Replacements: Ratu for Tagicakibau (49), T. Rawaqa for Vulivuli (67), Taka for Kentale (55), Dewes for Ma'afu (59), Tuapati for Veikoso (51), Kalou for Ravulo (75), Qera for Koyamaibole (49).

Sin Bin: Baikeinuku (22).

Att: 55,000

Referee: Jerome Garces (FRA)

Touch judges: Steve Walsh (AUS) & Rob Debney (ENG)

TV: Daniel Gillet (FRA)

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see also
Wales half-backs frustrate Howley
20 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Jones takes blame for Fiji draw
19 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Fire and flair: Fijian rugby
29 Sep 06 |  Rugby Union
Wales v Fiji: Full record
29 Sep 06 |  Rugby Union
Rugby union on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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