Fijian Drua achieve historic Super Rugby quarter finals dream

Photo: FILE

The Fijian Drua claim another victory at home and make a historic berth into the Super Rugby Pacific quarterfinals. Drua won 41 -17 at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva.

This is just the second season of the Drua franchise so this achievement is very special.

Coach Mick Byrne shared his thoughts on the historic win saying, “We’ve grown our belief over the couple of years. At half time I looked around and I could see the determination in the eyes of our players. Full credit to the players today. They really set up to not only show the competition but to show themselves what they can do when they really go after a game”

Playing at fullback this time around, Salestino Ravutaumada had an awesome game. He covered the ground well and was ready to ignite the counter attack whenever it was necessary. Ravutaumada scored the first try just 3 mins into the game. He was consistent throughout the game and later awarded the player of the match.

Tighthead prop Mesake Doge carried hard through the middle and was awarded a try to his name for his efforts. It was great to see the seasoned frontrower showing the young boys how things are to be done.

Doge frontrow companions, loosehead prop Haereiti Hetet and hooker Tevite Ikanivere played their hearts out as well. Hetet was strong in the scrum and take-up balls while Ikanivere controlled the back of the maul and was a menace for the Reds defenders.

It was a grueling first half and the game was all locked up 17 – 17 at half time.

Coach Byrne’s message in the changing rooms at the half time break was, “Believe in yourselves and it is time to express yourselves…we’ve got forty minutes of footy to go for the end of the season. Just go out and have your best footy”.

The Fijian Drua took their coach’s advice to master up some exemplary show of quality rugby in the second half.

“I was really pleased with the way we fought out there. I’m not great with stats at the end of a game but I think we kept them to 0 in the second half. So it was a pretty pleasing second half for our team and well led by the captain”, said Coach Byrne.

Fly half Caleb Muntz might be considered a small rugby player but he was unafraid when the big Reds forwards kept running at him. That was the Queensland Reds game plan – to attack the 10 and 12 channel of the Drua, but they had to deal with Muntz’s unyielding defense. And although looking to be playing out of position, Teti Tela fielded the inside center role and combined really well with Muntz and the outside backs.

Seasoned halfback Frank Lomani was instrumental for the Drua. He is the mastermind from the breakdowns and delivers quick balls to ensure the fast flowing rugby is executed for his team.

Lomani was successful with his penalty kicks and also huge in the tackle areas.

As always Meli Derenalagi showed great leadership. The number 8 led his team well and took upon himself to be the enforcer of the day. Whenever the Queensland Reds made clearing kicks, the Drua made sure that Derenalagi had the ball in hand and to charge at the Reds defense line again.

“We’ve learnt a lot from last week. That we didn’t execute the system that we’ve been taught. And coming out this week, the coach and management guided us to come and display what we’ve learned through the week. So major thanks to them for guiding us through this week”, said Derenalagi.

Derenalagi was later subbed off but was replaced by Elia Canakaivata who lifted the Drua’s defensive efforts to another level.

Canakaivata and lock forward Etonia Waqa made a great impact towards the win when they were injected into the game.

The Queensland Reds fought hard but eventually their defense line crumbled and succumbed to the unwavering attack by Fijian Drua.

It was a dominant second half by the Drua and they powered home with 3 more tries to seal the 41 -17 win. Blindside flanker Joseva Tamani ran in the last try from an intercept at the 50 meter line.

Captain Derenalagi concluded by thanking the Fijian Drua fans for turning out in numbers despite the rain saying, “The home fans always have our backs by supporting us. This is their team. We are just here to don the jerseys and play out hearts out because for the love of the nation. So big ‘Vinaka Vakalevu’ to them for coming out in numbers”. For the quarter final, the Fijian Drua will now play the defending champions the Canterbury Crusaders in Christchurch next weekend.