Fiji proved critics wrong yesterday with a powerful display of rugby drawing Wales 16-16 at the Millennium Stadium.
The try scored by Albert Vulivuli accentuated the huge effort by the Fijians after waves of attack on the hosts finally broke through their defence.
Fiji lost its hold on the game after the traditional weakness was exposed in the second half with 12 minutes of non-stop scrummaging on Fiji’s five metre line eventually led to a penalty scrum awarded to the Welsh.
Fiji captain Deacon Manu was delighted with the effort of his side to secure the draw.
Manu, who plies his trade with Welsh region the Scarlets, suggested Wales may have taken their eye off the ball.
“I am really happy with how the guys stood up today,” said the prop.
“The last 20 minutes we really had to dig in. We had to make sure we were concentrating as the Welsh side will pounce on any lapses.
“The last 20 minutes were huge and we were happy that we were able to retain the ball, which you can do under the new rules, and keep playing and keep the momentum going.
“It’s a step forward for us to come away from home and get a draw, but looking at who Wales have played in the last couple of weeks, and next week they have a tough game against the All Blacks, maybe they took their eye off this game.”
Meanwhile, Wales captain Ryan Jones reflected on “the worst 20 minutes” of his rugby career after he gave away a late penalty which allowed Fiji to shake the spoils.
The Ospreys back-rower committed the indiscretion that allowed fly-half Seremaia Bai to earn the Islanders their best-ever result against Wales in Cardiff, and revive some painful Welsh memories of their 38-34 win in Nantes that sent the men in red out of the 2007 World Cup.
The fact that Wales found themselves desperately defending deep in their own 22 so late in game said much about a mediocre performance that must rank as the worst since Warren Gatland took charge in the wake of that World Cup exit.
The home side were frequently turned over at the breakdown, shambolic at the line-out, directionless in attack and lacked the tactical nous to subdue their opponents.
And Jones, who will lose the leadership role to Matthew Rees for next weekend’s tussle with New Zealand, ranked the moment as the lowest in his career.
“It wasn’t good enough,” he said.
“In the end we got what we deserved and I have just had the worst 20 minutes of my rugby career standing up in front of the boys and apologising to them for a mistake I made which gave away the penalty for the three points that got them the draw.
“We are bitterly disappointed with that, the fans go away without the result and display they deserved and as a team we go have to go home, regroup and gear up for a massive test next week .”