Cheered on by the home crowd who were oblivious to the drizzle through the encounter, the Drua were unstoppable at home, showcased better control in the soggy conditions of HFC Stadium in Suva today – – scoring six tries in all – three of which in the second half unaswered – to secure a historic 41-17 win over the Reds.
The bonus point win ensured they leapfrog the Reds to seventh in the standings to secure their spot in the top eight in only their second year in the Super Rugby Pacific competition.
The win also ensures they end their losing streak to the Reds who had won their previous two encounters, and they maintain unbeaten record in Suva.
The Drua started strong, displaying their attacking prowess early on as Selesitino Ravutaumada weaved through the Reds’ defense for a stunning solo try, converted successfully by Caleb Muntz.
However, the Reds quickly retaliated, as Ryan Smith found his way over the try line, with James O’Connor adding the extras to level the scores at 7-7. The game continued to be a tightly contested battle, with Kalaveti Ravouvou’s burst through the defensive line putting the Drua back in the lead at 12-7. Undeterred, the Reds fought back, employing their well-executed forward work off a lineout to allow Fraser McReight to touch down for a try, and O’Connor’s accurate conversion gave them a slim lead of 14-12. O’Connor further extended the Reds’ advantage with a successful penalty goal, making it 17-12. However, the Drua refused to be held down, with Vilive Miramira benefitting off a Masi cross kick to level the scores at 17-17 into halftime.
The Drua began the second half with a new vigour and pace, exploiting the Reds’ defensive gaps that caught the Reds off guard. Frank Lomani’s successful penalty goal early in the half pushed the Drua into a 20-17 lead, while the Reds’ Fraser McReight received a yellow card, temporarily reducing their numbers. The Drua continued to dominate possession and territory, showcasing their persistence as Mesake Doge powered his way over the try line for their bonus-point try. Lomani’s conversion extended the Drua’s lead to 27-17. Both teams made several substitutions, including Masi leaving the field due to injury, with Michael Naitokani stepping in. The Drua were not finished with Tevita Ikanivere capitalised on a Reds’ overthrow at the back of a defensive lineout, scoring an easy try almost untouched. Lomani’s successful conversion stretched the Drua’s lead to 34-17. With the game nearing full-time, the departing Joseva Tamani provided the final blow, intercepting a Reds pass deep within their own territory and sprinting 60 meters untouched to secure a try. Valetini’s successful conversion sealed the game at 41-17 in the Drua’s favour.
Fijian Drua 41-17 Reds
HFC Stadium, Suva
Drua: Haereiti Hetet, Tevita Ikanivere, Mesake Doge, Isoa Nasilasila,Leone Rotuisolia, Joseva Tamani, Vilive Miramira, Meli Derenalagi (c), Frank Lomani, Caleb Muntz, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Teti Tela, Iosefo Masi, Eroni Sau, Selestino Ravutaumada.
Replacements: Mesu Dolokoto, Meli Tuni, Samuela Tawake, Etonia Waqa, Elia Canakaivata, Peni Matawalu, Kemu Valetini, Michael Naitokani
Tries: Ravutaumada, Ravouvou, Miramira, Doge, Ikanivere,Tamani; Conversions: Muntz (1/3), Lomani (2/2), Valetini; Pen Goal: Lomani
Reds (1-15): Peni Ravai, Matt Faessler, Zane Nonggorr, Angus Blyth, Ryan Smith, Seru Uru, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott (c), James O’Connor, Filipo Daugunu, Hunter Paisami, Josh Flook, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jock Campbell
Replacements: Richie Asiata, Dane Zander, Sef Fa’agase, Lopeti Faifua, Jake Upfield, Kalani Thomas, Tom Lynagh, Lawson Creighton
Tries: Smith, McReight; Conversions: O’Connor (2)
Photo: Taito Waqavakatoga