It was another Super Rugby Pacific thriller this weekend as the Fijian Drua tamed the Wellington Hurricanes at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva, winning 27 – 24.
Driven by the loud cheers of their home crowd, the Drua fought hard right down to the final whistle.
Drua head coach Mick Byrne was happy with the performance saying: “We’ve been working really, really hard to play 80-minute footy. We know what’s needed to play in Super Rugby and we have that. It is just the belief to keep going and keep making our plays. We’re gonna get tired…that’s the game, but we know we’ve got the fitness to push through that and keep working.
“So today full credit to all the players and the coaches…the homework we’ve done this week to our boys and they knew what was going to come. The players have had a good week and the coaches have had a good week. And when we do that, we put ourselves into the chances of winning a game”, he said.
The game was a see-saw battle from the get-go, with both Drua and Hurricanes scoring just a try each in the first stanza. Drua led 7 points to 5 at half time.
The Savea brothers led the charge for the visitors from New Zealand.
Former All Black winger, Julian Savea, scored his second try early in the second half while his younger brother and current Hurricanes captain, Ardie was big in the tackle areas and made quick, successful turnovers in the rucks.
Loosehead prop Xavier Numia and flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi also put down tries for the Hurricanes.
Jordie Barrett acquired a 50% success rate with the boot by slotting in only 2 out of 4 conversions for his side.
However, still in his debut season for the Drua, nifty speedster Taniela Rakuro was outstanding on the left wing, creating havoc for the Hurricanes every time he touched the ball.
Rakuro scored two tries and was awarded the man of the match for his exhilarating performance.
Right winger Salestino Ravutaumada played his heart out. He was unafraid of the contact areas and chased hard for the high balls. Unfortunately, he succumbed to an injury after a huge mid-air collision in the 57th minute and had to be stretched off the field.
Openside flanker Kitione Salawa and halfback Frank Lomani were also injured during the game, but we have yet to receive updates about their condition.
Coach Byrne later addressed injuries in the camp: “It’s early days but the pleasing thing for me is Salestino walking around and cracking jokes. He obviously had a bad hit but…to see him alert and walking the room and enjoying the win is very pleasing.”
Meli Derenalagi started the game from the bench but as usual, once on the field, the lanky forward made his presence known through his signature furious tackles. He also scored a try to help the Drua inch closer to the Hurricanes’ lead.
Super-sub playmaker and golden boot, Kemu Valetini kicked two penalty kicks in the last ten minutes of the game, one to tie and the other to reclaim the lead for the Drua. He is quickly becoming a game winner for the side.
Captain Tevita Ikanivere, was instrumental, making a number of strong carries, he was always in support and his lineout throws were brilliant all afternoon.
“I love playing rugby and to run another 80 minutes to do the best job in the world, yeah I don’t mind doing that, ” said Ikanivere.
This was a big win for the Fijian Drua, a much-needed stepping-stone for a first finals berth.
“We said to the boys…the top 8 finish is in our hands. When we win games of footy we’ll be in the top 8. Getting a win today gives us another chance to get another win next week. And a win after that…and a win after that,” said Byrne.
Coach Byrne also credited the home crowd and thanked them for showing up to support the Drua.
“The fans were excellent. Our fans are the best in the world. We know that and today they won that award again. I’ve had a few messages from all around the world today. And every single one of them talked about our fans. So we are lucky!”
After 11 rounds, the Drua now sit at 8th position in the leaderboard with 4 wins and 6 losses.
They will face the Western Force in Perth on Friday night.