BASIC errors shattered the dreams of the Fiji Bati to play against the likes of world champions New Zealand in the Four Nations competition next year.
The side was upset 24-22 by the Cook Islands in a round of the Pacific Cup competition in Papua New Guinea yesterday and with it went the hopes of a top level outing.
The Vodafone-sponsored Bati took a 22-20 lead with five minutes remaining but the Fijian defence crumbled in the dying stages of the game, allowing Gold Coast winger Dominic Peyroux to score from a high kick, sending the jubilant Cook Islanders into next Sunday's final.
The Cooks will play the winner of the Papua New Guinea-Tonga match, which will be played today.
The winner of the final will get a shot at playing in the Four Nations against New Zealand, Australia and England.
Fiji coach Terry Gilogely said the errors killed the side.
Fiji's handling skills seemed to suffer under pressure as they made a string of errors but, with just over 10 minutes remaining, they mounted an impressive comeback.
But the Fijians twice knocked on in their own half in the final three minutes, and the effort of consecutive defensive sets eventually left a huge gap on the wing for Peyroux to gather a high ball in the in-goal area and score the Cook Islands' match-winning try with seconds remaining.
"It just proves that it's not over until the fat lady sings," Fiji skipper Wes Naiqama said.
"We're really disappointed but the Cooks played a great game and you've got to give them credit."