Fijian Drua have given Melbourne rugby fans a sneak peek of what to expect in the Super Rugby Pacific competition, beating the Rebels 28-26 in a warmup match on Thursday night.
The Drua came from behind in the four-tries apiece thriller at Harlequin Rugby Club in their first and only hit out before taking on the NSW Waratahs in their historic season opener in Parramatta on 18 February.
The Fijians opened the scoring inside two minutes through international hooker Tevita Ikanivere and Kiwi five-eighth Baden Kerr converted.
After conceding an intercept try, the Drua retook the lead with winger Kitione Ratu scoring under the posts for 14-7, before Melbourne scored three unanswered tries to take a 24-14 advantage into the final third of the contest.
But the hosts couldn’t hang on, Joseva Tamani barged over after strong forward play and winger Vinaya Habosi scored a length of the field try under the sticks to leave Caleb Muntz an easy conversion for the win.
The Drua – who played in the National Rugby Championship before graduating to Super Rugby Pacific – have based themselves on the NSW North Coast to prepare for their competition debut.
Captain Nemani Nagusa said it was a good all-round performance from the team.
“I’m really proud of the boys and the way they turned out today and fought back. We started well and held off in the middle and we finished strong. All credit to the boys and the hard work they’ve put in.”
Nagusa said while they played well, there’s still plenty to learn from and they’ll be looking back on the match to take any lessons from it.
2The coaches have some tips and we’ll look at the things we did wrong in the game and polish them before the game next week.”
The Drua will play its inaugural Super Rugby Pacific match against the New South Wales Waratahs next Friday.
Nagusa is backing his team’s involvement in Super Rugby Pacific to have a major impact on the development of the sport in his homeland as the countdown towards their opening game ticks down.
“Young Fijians who are playing in the local competitions, they can come and now have a team to work hard and try to get into to play against the world’s best in a competition that we look up to and watched as a young kid growing up back at home,” he said.
“It means a lot and it’s a huge opportunity. I’m really proud to be made captain and to be here as a Fijian.
“(The) first game against the Waratahs will force us to focus on the big plan the coaches have in place, it’s a big chance to express ourselves and show Fijian players.”
Mick Byrne’s side will play ‘home’ games at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium (rounds three and eight), Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval (round five) and Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium (round 13), while also hoping to host in front of their fans in Suva in round 11.