Until then a packed stadium had watched in horror as Mike Ruddock's men had threatened to wipe away all the glory of last season's campaign. If last Saturday's All Black stuffing had brought them back to earth then a loss to the courageous but ultimately chaotic Fijians could very well have sent Welsh rugby six feet under. They have Nicky Robinson's drop-goal five minutes from time to thank for capping a final-quarter surge that spared three million blushes.
Whatever the value of those three points, however, one calamitous hour will live long in the memory of the heroic Fijians and those Welshman who unwisely choose not to visit their therapists in the next few days.
It took 39 minutes until the scoreboard started ticking and even then it was a second rower, Iferemi Rawaqa, who had to run 60 yards to do so.
If it had not been for the misfiring boot of Julian Vulakoro, who missed three kickable penalties in the first 17 minutes, Wales would have gone in even further behind, though Robinson did miss two of Wales's own - one straight in front of the posts in the 26th minute. That was typical of a first half that seemed destined to finish 0-0 until Rawaqa, the 6ft 5in lock who plays in Japan, found himself on the end of sumptuous handling movement before outpacing Alix Popham to go under the posts.
The Wales players were booed off at half-time, and began the second half in a similar vein to the first - ie bleeding. Seremaia Bai brought a bit of order to a rapidly deteriorating game in the 54th minute with a left-footed drop-goal to make it 10-0.
Michael Owen, the Welsh captain, opted to take the three points when Wales were awarded a penalty five metres out in the 57th minute and Robinson nervously popped it over. That blew the fire from Fiji and when Isoa Domolailai was sin-binned seven minutes later, their scrum was 18 stone the lighter and Owen's pushover try was inevitable, but Robinson pulled his conversion wide.
Wales: Tries Owen. Pen Robinson. Drop goal Robinson. Fiji: Try Rawaqa. Con Vulakoro. Drop goal Bai.
Wales: L Byrne (Llanelli Scarlets); K Morgan (Newport-Gwent Dragons), M Watkins (Llanelli Scarlets), S Parker (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); N Robinson (Cardiff Blues), G Cooper (Newport-Gwent Dragons); J Yapp (Blues), R Thomas (Cardiff Blues), C Horsman (Warriors), B Cockbain (Ospreys), L Charteris (Newport-Gwent Dragons), D Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), M Owen (Newport-Gwent Dragons, capt). Replacements: H Bennett (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), R Sidoli (Cardiff Blues), A Popham (Llanelli Scarlets), R Sowden-Taylor (Cardiff Blues), M Phillips (Cardiff Blues), C Sweeney (Newport-Gwent Dragons).
Fiji: N Ligairi (Yamaha, Japan); M Luveitasau (Rosi, Naitasiri), E Ruivadra (Dravo, Tailevu), J Vulakoro (Navosa), S Bobo (Parma, Italy); S Bai (Secom, Japan), M Rauluni (Saracens); J Bale (Marist, Suva), S Koto (Marist, Suva), A Nagi (Tropik Wood, Lautoka), I Rawaqa (Vuda, Lautoka), I Domolailai (Auckland Marist), A Doviverata (Yamaha, Japan), A Ratuva (PWD Lines, Tailevu), S Koyamaibole (Taranaki, NZ). Replacements: V Gadolo (Lomaiviti, Suva), T Matawalu (Cagimaira), K Leawere (Ruatoria City, NZ), K Salabogi, M Volavola (Ravuka, Nadroga), A Vata (NMA, Nadi), K Ratuou (PWD Lines, Tailevu).
Referee: R Dickson (Scotland).Reuse content