Wales held on to edge a Fijian side reduced to 14 men in the 52nd minute by 17-13 in a hard-fought rugby Test at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
In a disappointingly error-ridden game, the home side scored three first-half tries through wingers George North and Alex Cuthbert, and a penalty try, the latter converted by Rhys Priestland.
Fiji, who saw prop Campese Ma’afu sent off with almost 30 minutes to play after a second yellow card, replied with two Nemani Nadolo penalties, the giant centre grabbing a 78th intercept try he also converted.
Wales will be left ruing their poor execution and ball skills as they failed to convert their domination of territory and possession into points, after last weekend’s 33-28 defeat by Australia and ahead of consecutive matches against world champions New Zealand and South Africa.
“We’ll take a win but we are disappointed with our performance,” Wales captain Gethin Jenkins told the BBC.
“We lacked basic skills and lost the ball too often. But all credit to Fiji, they came here and gave us a hell of a game.
“I’m just glad we got on the right side of the scoreboard. We weren’t at the races but at least we got the win.”
North opened the scoring after a schoolboy midfield move left the Fijian defence out of shape, Scott Williams drawing the last man and playing in the winger for his 19th Test try.
The home side dominated possession but Fiji were quick to seize on any counter-attacking chances, Stade Francais’ Waisea Nayacalevu making a hash of a try-scoring opportunity after Priestland lost the ball.
The five-eighth, targeted by sections of the Millennium Stadium for jeers and whistles in the loss to Australia, then delivered the crucial long pass to Cuthbert, allowing the winger to dot down in the corner.
While Priestland missed his two conversions, Nadolo nailed a penalty in the 22nd minute for Fiji’s first points and bagged a second shortly after following another lost ball in contact.
Poor home defence almost left Fiji in for a try on the half-hour, centre Vereniki Goneva breaking 50 metres from a ruck.
Fiji skipper Akapusi Qera scorned a two-man overlap, however, and Nadolo skewed a resulting penalty.
Fijian woes worsened just before half-time when prop Ma’afu was yellow-carded for dragging down an attacking Welsh maul on their line.
After a further maul was brought down, French referee Paul Gauzere awarded a penalty try, converted by Priestland.
Nadolo missed a long-range penalty and in the 53rd minute, Ma’afu was sent off for a second yellow card after taking out Bradley Davies in the line-out.
With knock-ons and turnovers now the main feature of a poor second period, Cuthbert was bundled into touch with the line beckoning as the Fijians stoutly manned their 14-man defence.
Faletau thought he had got the scoreboard ticking again when he sprinted in for a try after full-back Liam Williams, the one player to impress, broke away, but referee Gauzere ruled it out for a tackle infringement.
Fiji, who will rue their lack of a recognised goalkicker and a play-making midfield marshal, had the last word when Nadolo seized on a Priestland pass to sprint away for a try he converted to bring the curtain down on a dire match.