Wales 17-13 Fiji
Wales lose their way despite victory
ESPN Staff
November 15, 2014
Date/Time: Nov 15, 2014, 14:30 local, 14:30 GMT
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Wales 17 - 13 Fiji
Attendance: 61326  Half-time: 17 - 6
Tries: Cuthbert, North, Penalty
Cons: Priestland
Tries: Nadolo
Cons: Nadolo
Pens: Nadolo 2
George North scored in the opening minutes for Wales
© Getty Images
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Wales laboured to victory against Fiji at the Millennium Stadium despite playing against 14 men for more than half of the match.

Fijian hooker Campese Ma'afu was sent to the bin for 10 minutes shortly before half-time and then was shown a second yellow card only a matter of minutes after returning to the field in the second half.

Despite their numerical advantage, Wales failed to put any more points on the board in the second half, although they did have two "tries" ruled out by the Television Match Official. Indeed, it was Fiji who scored in the closing stages, with Nemani Nadolo - Fiji's 19-stone centre - claiming a sparkling intercept try.

George North and Alex Cuthbert scored first-half tries for Wales, while they were also awarded a penalty try shortly after Ma'afu's yellow card in the first half.

Prop Gethin Jenkins led a much-changed Wales team into action as they targeted victory over Millennium Stadium visitors Fiji before hosting world champions New Zealand next weekend.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland made eight changes from the side beaten 33-28 by Australia last Saturday, which included starts for centre Scott Williams, fly-half Rhys Priestland, hooker Scott Baldwin and flanker Justin Tipuric.

Fiji arrived in Cardiff following a comprehensive loss against France last time out, but Wales knew they could not be treated lightly, given a line-up that included powerful Leicester back Vereniki Goneva and former Gloucester back-row forward Akapusi Qera, who captained the South Sea Islanders.

Wales made their intention clear from the outset, looking to keep ball in hand and play with considerable pace, and it took just six minutes to break down Fiji's defence.

The visitors found themselves on the back foot in terms of territory, and Wales prospered through some slick handling by Priestland and Scott Williams, who sent an unmarked George North over for his 19th Test try.

Priestland missed the touchline conversion attempt, but Wales were off and running, even though they had a lucky escape just five minutes later after Goneva's kick and chase caused panic in the home defence, but wing Waisea Nayacalevu knocked on under pressure from North with the try-line at his mercy.

Wales were content to be patient and play through the phases, with Tipuric prominent as an all-action link man, and a superb Priestland touch-finder created another strong attacking platform, and more patient build-up resulted in North's fellow wing Alex Cuthbert touching down following a Taulupe Faletau charge.

Priestland again missed the conversion, but Wales were 10-0 ahead inside the opening quarter, which suggested a long afternoon ahead for Fiji.

Fiji opened their account through a 23rd-minute penalty by centre Nemani Nadolo, and he doubled his team's score with another penalty five minutes later as Wales went off the boil following such a lively opening.

Fijian hooker Campese Ma'afu reacts to being sin-binned against Wales, Wales v Fiji, Autumn internationals, Millennium Stadium, November 15, 2014
Campese Ma'afu was shown two yellow cards, one either side of half-time © Getty Images

It sparked a spell of flamboyant Fiji attacking play - exactly the type of game that Wales did not want to get dragged into - and the home team had a reprieve when Qera ignored two unmarked team-mates outside him following another impressive break by Goneva.

Nadolo missed a chance to narrow the gap to a point when he drifted an angled penalty kick wide, but Wales temporarily appeared rudderless after being rattled by Fiji's trademark adventure.

But they were helped when Fiji prop Campese Ma'afu was sin-binned for killing possession, and a penalty try quickly followed for Wales after Fiji pulled down a maul.

Priestland's conversion made it 17-6, and ensured Wales regained control going into the break.

Wales' early competence and confidence continued to disappear through a malaise of poor passing and even worse handling, which was underlined when centre Jamie Roberts spilled possession under no pressure in midfield just 30 metres out from Fiji's line.

Fiji were happy to soak up the possession afforded to them by Welsh mistakes, and they remained very much in the contest midway through the third quarter.

Wales continued to work hard up-front, though, and the forwards drove a lineout over Fiji's line, which French referee Pascal Gauzere referred to television match official Carlo Damasco, but no try was awarded following a lengthy adjudication.

And Fiji were then given a Herculean task when Nottingham prop Ma'afu received a second yellow card - this time for a lineout offence - and Gauzere sent him off, reducing Fiji to 14 men with 27 minutes of the contest still remaining.

Wales thought they had claimed a fourth try 10 minutes from time when Faletau scampered clear, but play was harshly called back for a knock-on by Liam Williams before he delivered a scoring pass.

It was a major escape for Fiji, but caused only more frustration for misfiring Wales as Gatland made a raft of substitutions, including a first cap for Ospreys prop Nicky Smith.

And Fiji finished the stronger team, underlined when Nadolo intercepted Priestland's pass and sprinted 70 metres for a try that he also converted.

There was not enough time left for Fiji to steal an unlikely win, but they deserved all the credit following a poor Wales performance.

Fijian centre Vereniki Goneva fends off Mike Phillips on a fast break © Getty Images
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