Wales 38 Pacific Islanders 20: Sweeney's savvy pacifies Islanders

Autumn Tests: Second-string selection stroll past multinational side to give Jenkins his first Wales win
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The Independent Online

Big hits we were promised and a big blow we got, although it was delivered straight to the heart of the Pacific Islanders as their pride was all but shattered by Wales' "second XV".

Gareth Jenkins had declared that the world would see his squad's "strength in depth" and the Welsh coach was last night feeling fully justified in being so bold after his first win in charge. In truth, though, the "British Lions of the South Seas" had been the perfect opposition. Before recovering a modicum of pride late on, they had suffered an afternoon of lessons. And the first half was particularly harsh.

Here the pick of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa were presented with a learning curve with a serrated edge on it that proceeded to run itself straight across their throats. Two intercepted tries showed that the wounds were not all of Wales' making, although, in fairness to the home side some of their play was sublime. But then, a lot of it did come from the ridiculous.

The daftest give-away was undoubtedly in the 24th minute when the Samoan outside-half, Tusi Pisi ("Easy" to his mates) somehow arrived at the decision that the wisest move would be to fling a 20-yard pass across a dangerously flat line. So there stood James Hook wondering whether this international rugby lark is all it's cracked up to be as he followed his startling introduction against Australia with one of the simplest tries he will ever score, galloping unhindered some 40 yards before touching down between the posts.

The 21-year-old might have been at centre yesterday but he proved he can been just as influential there as he looked at No 10. Indeed, he might not get another chance in the Wales hot seat as soon as his nation might expect because Ceri Sweeney did nothing wrong. Together with Duncan Jones - the captain fantastic at loose-head - Sweeney was the pick of a well-organised bunch, although Sonny Parker drew much praise as well. How delighted Wales are that their naturalised Kiwi has reversed his international retirement.

In fact, it was the outside centre's pass which got the whole party going, although it was the finish of the receiver, Mark Jones, which really burst open the champagne. The left-winger displayed what a killer instinct he has when leaving one defender for dead and then another so cleverly, after stopping on the spot and pre-empting the missed tackle. That made it 10-0 after 15 minutes, Sweeney having buttoned an earlier penalty, and when Hook strolled in it was 17-0. The Millennium Stadium was counting. On the half-hour it was purring after Kevin Morgan had put the necessaries on the finest move of the game. First Sweeney delayed his short past to perfection, then Parker steamed through with astonishing pace and power and then the full-back arrived right on cue. At 24-0 there was no way back.

That the visitors would be capable of something resembling a fightback was confirmed in the 35th minute when their prop, Justin Va'a, crashed over in the corner. There had been a few instances when the Islanders had broken the line but that was all it had been, and this opening 40 minutes of their first northern hemisphere tour will be remembered for basic failings.

Most glaringly, their line-out was a total shambles. At one stage they lost five of their own throw-ins on the bounce and when Lee Byrne accepted the invitation for a second interception - this time the centre Seru Rabeni applying the gift wrap - Wales were going in 31-5 up and fully deserving of it. The portents screamed of further bloodshed.

But somehow in that 10-minute interval, Pat Lam, their coach, found a structure in which his understandably underprepared rabble could operate. Wales were still largely on top, mind you, and the fact they were to "lose" that second half 15-7 was as much down to their own foot coming off the gas as any Islanders' acceleration.

London Irish's Seilala Mapasua began the push for respectability in the 43rd minute before Sweeney was granted the touchdown his solid display warranted five minutes later. But then the game fell strangely quiet as Wales seemed happy to coast in.

There was always the substitute Kameli Ratuvou to liven proceedings and the Fijian flyer put some meat on his ever-growing reputation with a number of runs that were capped with a fine try with 20 minutes remaining. It hinted of better things to come and there is little doubt that the Islanders will improve. But so, too, will Wales. And as yesterday proved, catch-up in Test rugby is never easy.

Wales: K Morgan (Dragons); L Byrne, S Parker, J Hook (all Ospreys), M Jones (Scarlets); C Sweeney (Dragons), M Phillips (Cardiff Blues); D Jones (Ospreys, capt), R Thomas (Blues), C Horsman (Worcester), M Owen (Dragons), R Sidoli (Blues), AW Jones (Ospreys), G Thomas, A Popham (both Scarlets). Replacements: S Williams (Ospreys) for M Jones, 53; AR Jones (Ospreys) for Horsman, 56; G Evans (Scarlets) for Byrne, 60; G Cooper (Dragons) for Phillips, 72; J Thomas (Ospreys) for Owen, 72; H Bennett (Ospreys) for R Thomas, 73.

Pacific Islanders: N Ligairi (Fiji); L Fa'atau (Samoa), S Rabeni (Fiji), S Mapusua (Samoa), S Tagicakibau (Samoa); T Pisi (Samoa), M Rauluni (Fiji); J Va'a (Samoa), M Schwalger (Samoa), T Taumoepeau (Tonga), S Raiwalui (Fiji, capt), D Leo (Samoa), S Sititi (Samoa), N Latu (Tonga), H T-Pole (Tonga). Replacements: K Ratuvou (Fiji) for Tagicakibau, 19; Taione (Tonga) for T-Pole, 51; Lutui (Tonga) for Schwalger, 58; Molitika (Tonga) for Leo, 65; Johnston (Samoa) for Taumoepeau, 68; Bai (Fiji) for Mapasua, 68; Poluleuligaga (Samoa) for Rauluni, 74.

Referee: W Barnes (England).

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