150th anniversary: ‘Great open Fijian rugby’

The Fiji rugby team that toured Wales in 1964. Picture: WWW.WIKIWAND. COM

In 1964, rugby writer John Reed described one of the games he was reporting on as the “greatest spectacle of adventurous running rugby the Arms Park has ever seen”.

That game at Arms Park, also known as the Cardiff Arms Park, which Reed was referring to was between Wales and Fiji, the result of which was splashed across the pages of The Fiji Times on September 28, 1964.

Wales won 28 to Fiji 22, in a game that was the finale of the islanders’ five-match tour of Wales. “Nevermind the score-line. It’s not that vital,” Reed said.

“The Fijians never gave up. Their startling speed and fitness enabled prop forward Sevaro to score three tries with magnificent opportunism.

“Their left-wing, Robe captivated the crowd with his thrilling dashes like a runaway tank.”

Reed was not alone in his remarks. Dave Phillips, The Sunday Times writer, said the Fijians “came very near to a sensational victory in this unofficial test”.

“They played glorious footing. If this is to be the pattern of things in international rugby, then the game looks like becoming a major attraction,” Phillips noted.

In the Sunday Telegraph, Michael Melford said the feats of the Fijians had 55,000 Welshmen standing, singing and cheering themselves hoarse.

Fiji lost to the Welsh XV but in defeat, they won the admiration and affection of the Welsh people.

“There were ugly moments when the Fijians were outnumbered in the open by five to one but their covering was superb,” described Melford.

“In attack, their speed on the loose ball gave them chances which they exploited by picking up and handling with the dexterity of the French or even of the Harlem Globetrotters.”

With nine minutes to go, the score was 28-9 and it seemed the Fijians were going to lose their chance for a recognition on the international rugby scene.

But in those last incredible minutes, the crowd never stopped cheering as the Fijians launched a series of attacks and literally ran the Welshmen off their feet. They added 13 points in the end.

“This game has put us permanently on the rugby map here in Wales,” said the Fijian team manager D.W Brown while summing up the team’s performance.

“Fiji can be justly proud of its team.”

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