Fijian Drua Secure 20-10 Win, Hand Crusaders Second Home Loss

The Swire Shipping Fijian Drua rallied from 10 points down to beat reigning champions Crusaders 20-10 for their first win of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season, and their second victory in front of a packed crowd at Churchill Park in Lautoka.

The win serves as a breather for the Drua after a slow start to the season, with losses to the Blues (34-10) and Moana Pasifika (39-36), heading into today’s game tenth in the standings.

Winning coach Mick Brynes said: “After the two losses, and at the training on Monday I knew that the story would be different today. They displayed hunger and that is what they showed today.

“The four captains that we have, they allow the young ones to speak, and they listened. That is what is different about this team.”

In their previous meeting at the same venue last year, the Drua won 25-24, via a Kemu Valetini penalty goal in the final minute of play.

Motivated by the loss last year, the Crusaders took an early lead, with Taha Kamera landing a penalty in the 13th minute and Sevu Reece scoring in the 20th minute. But that was to be their only points in the match.

Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula first narrowed the gap with a penalty goal in the 24th minute, before deserving player of the match Frank Lomani delivered a precise pass to Selestino Ravataumada, who scored in the corner, leveling the scores at halftime.

Into the second half, the Drua were strong in defense, fending off numerous Crusaders’ attacking attempts, and proved to be the more threatening side with the ball in hand.

The Drua secured the only points of the second half with a try by Lomani in the 45th minute. Armstrong-Ravula successfully converted and added a penalty in the 77th minute, sealing the victory and completing his 10-point haul, with five points in each half, in his first home game.

“That kid is wise beyond his years, so much so that the big boys upfront listen when he has something to say,” Bryne said of Armstrong-Ravula.

This match marked the two teams’ fourth meeting, with an even record of two wins and two losses. The Drua’s losses were registered away, including a round 14 match in 2022, where the Crusaders dominated 61-3, and in the quarterfinals last year, ending 49-8 in the eventual champs’ favour.

Winning captain Meli Derenalagi acknowledged the rest of the squad including the players who did not take the field today, and the crowd for the win today.

“As always the Fiji crowd spurs us on.”

Looking ahead, the Drua will face the Chiefs in Hamilton next Saturday night, while the Crusaders will eagerly return to Christchurch to host the Hurricanes in their first home game of the season next Friday night, opening Round 4.

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