Wales have avoided embarrassment from 14-man Fiji in labouring to a flattering 38-23 win at Principality Stadium – but the victory could cost them some key personnel for their upcomiing Test against the Wallabies.
Fiji winger Eroni Sau was red-carded in the 25th minute while his team was leading, and Fiji played 20 more minutes with 13 men, but Wales couldn’t grab the lead for good until the 67th minute.
Even then, the 24-23 go-ahead try came from a Fiji error – a missed lineout catch – and ended up being dotted down in the corner by Alex Cuthbert, playing his first test in more than four years.
Another Fiji error, a loose pass on Wales’ 22, ended up with the other wing, Louis Rees-Zammit, chipping from halfway and beating the cover to the ball at the back of the in-goal for 31-23.
The brilliant and tenacious Fijians never gave up and were held up over the line, but another error was returned to the tryline in overtime by Liam Williams, making his first start since an appendectomy.
Wales ended a four-Test winless run, all at home, and coach Wayne Pivac, a former Fiji coach, appreciated their fortune.
“It was everything you’d expect from a Wales vs. Fiji game. We made it hard for ourselves,” Pivac said.
“Fiji can score points with 13 or 14 men. They’re in our pool at the (2023) World Cup, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Pivac said Wales didn’t handle red cards in the last Six Nations well, either, and they need to address it.
“It’s a mental thing,” he said.
“If you relax at this level, you keep teams in for longer than they need to be.”
Wales face Australia – who have lost to Scotland and England this month – on Saturday with Pivac having to deal with a number of injury concerns for the match.
One of those being Josh Adams, who pulled out of the side minutes before kick-off against Fiji with a calf issue.
“Josh felt something in his leg in the warm-up… Hopefully that won’t keep him out for too long,” Pivac said.
“We had a couple of head knocks, WillGriff John and Will Rowlands. With a six-day turnaround, we might have to dig deeper into the squad.
“Aaron Wainwright should be ready though and Tomas Francis is already into the (concussion) protocols.”