Fijian Drua into Super Rugby Pacific quarters, Pasifika get first win
5 June, 2023, 12:15 pm
The Fijian Drua have made history by reaching the Super Rugby Pacific quarter-finals in only their second season with a 43-17 win over the Reds in Suva.
The Mick Byrne-coached team have achieved the near impossible thanks to a Herculean second-half effort where they raced in 26 unanswered points after being held to 17-17 at the end of the first 40 minutes.
They turned into a cyclone of blue jerseys in the second half that the Reds couldn’t hold out.
Initially it looked as if the Reds’ season was over but luckily for the Queensland side, other results went their way and they sneaked into the last eight.
“I just told them at halftime to go out there and leave everything on the field and they did that today,” a proud Byrne said in the post-match media conference.
“We’ve grown our belief in two years, and I could look round our room at halftime and I could see a lot of determined faces,” Byrne said.
“That’s always a pleasing thing for a coach because you don’t have to say anything.
“You just get them up and ready so full credit to our players, they really stepped up and they showed the competition and themselves what they can do when they go after a game,” Byrne said.
The Drua will now play the Crusaders in Christchurch in their quarter-final match.
Pasifika get off the mark
That wasn’t the only good news for the two Pacific teams with Moana Pasifika recording their only win for the season by defeating the Waratahs 33-24 to send Waratahs captain Michael Hooper out of the Sydney Football Stadium for the last time on a loss.
“We played for our coach today and it was good to send him off with a win,” veteran flyhalf Christian Lealifano told Sky Sport after the game referring to head coach Aaron Mauger who has resigned.
Nevertheless, it was a season in which Moana Pasifika played their first home game in two seasons when they faced the Reds in Apia, Samoa in April.
However, the fairy tale continued for the Fijian Drua in front of packed stadium of delirious fans in Suva.
The Fijian Drua set the tone for the game when fullback Seletino Ravutaumada charged down Filipo Daugunu’s kick for an early try.
Other first half tries for the Fijian Drua were scored by winger Kalaveti Rauvouvou and flanker Vilive Mirmira which levelled the scores at halftime.
The second half was all one-way with prop Mesake Doge and hooker Tevita Ikanavere getting tries.
That was before locked Joseva Tamani chanced upon a loose ball and sped the length of the field to finish the scoring.
“You can see how happy we are right now,” said Drua captain Meli Derenalagi after the game.
“Hats off to the soldiers behind me for turning up for duty today. Our fans being behind us throughout the season has been a major enjoyment for our players and that’s why they are playing their hearts out today.”
The win will be tinged with some sadness with nine players departing the Fiji Drua at the end of the season.
Next weekend’s quarterfinals will see the Chiefs hosting the Reds, Crusaders at home against the Drua, the Hurricanes travelling to Canberra to play the Brumbies, and the Blues hosting the Waratahs.