The Fijian Drua narrowly escaped a strong challenge from Moana Pasifika at Churchill Park in Lautoka this weekend to get home 47 – 46.
It was the Moana Pasifika team’s first visit to Fiji, and they started with confidence, with fullback William Havili dotting down the first try in just the fourth minute.
Fijian Drua captain, Meli Derenalagi replied with a try from a quick tap-and-go in the eighth minute.
In-form outside center Iosefo Masi was outstanding, breaking through the Moana defense line and running around two other defenders to give Drua the lead. Masi went on to score two more tries later in the game and was the man of the match.
The sides traded tries throughout the first half, with the Moana Pasifika’s blockbusting outside center, Levi Aumua—who is headed to the Canterbury Crusaders next season— scoring the final try before halftime.
Early in the second half, Moana Pasifika retook the lead through a successful penalty kick at goal by Leali’ifano, but the Drua followed with two quick tries.
Iosefo Masi soon followed with his third try in the 55th minute. Masi is the first player to score a hat trick for the Fijian Drua franchise.
Moana Pasifia then scored three times to stay in the match; the second saw Leali’ofano score a wonderful try, fooling everyone with a dummy pass to touch down right between the uprights. Unfortunately, he was unable to convert and the Drua hung on by one point at the final whistle.
Moana Pasifika Coach, Aaron Mauger said it was an outstanding spectacle. “When we consider what the Drua and Moana Pasifika have both brought to this competition, that’s the example of what happened in there today, two teams in the islands playing with a bit of Pacific islands flair and putting on close to a hundred points. So, I think that’s the real celebration, the fact that we’re here for the first time against an awesome Drua side is something to be celebrated. It’s obviously a little heart break for us at the end of the game but our boys gave it everything.”
Drua Captain, Meli Derenalagi said they had expected a tough contest and noted: “We have a lot of weaknesses in our defense and we know we need to work hard on that before our game next week against the Queensland Reds.
“The forward pack will need to pull up our socks because Moana scored two tries through the mauls and we know the Reds will be reviewing that. So, for next week we’ll have to work twice as hard, like we always do when we have weaknesses in our maul.”
Coach Byrne signed off by saying: “We’ve had a couple of good victories here on the back of some great crowd support. We know our fans dig deep to turn up and come here. And they’ve had to dig deep for three games here. And we’ll get our sixth home game, our third game in Suva next week. I really appreciate the love and support of our fans. Our boys will cherish the moments we’ve had here and we’ll carry that energy over to Suva next weekend”
The Drua will play the Queensland Reds in Suva, Saturday next weekend while the Moana Pasifika will face the NSW Waratahs in Sydney.