Five things we learnt from Fijian Drua-Reds

Swire Shipping Fijian Drua lock forward, Joseva Tamani pictured with Fijian born Queensland Reds player, Serupepeli Uru after their Super Rugby match at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva on Saturday, June 03, 2023. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Celebrating the success of the Fijian Drua’s bold rise to the play-offs in just their second season was the huge upside to events in Suva. The massive down side was watching the Queensland Reds slip, sliding away to a 41-17 loss to leave their 2023 record at a lame 5-9. There was so much to play for and so much on the line in the final 40 minutes when the teams went to half-time at 17-all. One team fired all the shots in the second half. What did we learn?

1 Set piece wobbles

When coach Brad Thorn took on the Reds coaching role in 2018, he started the rebuild of the then-failing club by upgrading the defence and adding starch to the set piece. The failures of the Reds’ scrum and lineout in Suva at key times were extremely costly. This was as much to do with uninspiring recruiting before the season than anything. The Reds played the whole regular season in Super Rugby Pacific without a Wallaby in the tight five and it showed in just about every match. The Reds knew they were going to be without trump Taniela Tupou months before the season started. Former Fijian Test prop Peni Ravai was a good recruit and, sadly, they didn’t get a minute out of former Wallaby Luke Jones, at lock, because of injury. The Reds were still down a big ball-running backrower or lock and a prop capable of making more of a difference at scrum-time. Two wobbly Reds scrums in the first half were the ignition points for two Drua tries. On top of that, a rare over-throw from hooker Matt Faessler was gobbled by Fijian Drua hooker Tevita Ikanivere for a soft try.

2 Bula Round 2024

A shout out to Stan Sport’s Sean Maloney who first championed the idea of Bula Round in 2024 to replace Melbourne’s Super Round. Imagine the party throughout Fiji if all 12 clubs converged for a weekend of matches. The rugby hot spots in Lautoka and Suva would both host matches. As ever, the commercial aspect would have to be nutted out to make sure the numbers worked. If you could guarantee a few plane loads of fans from Australia and New Zealand, it would start to make sense. We can all think of worse places to be based for a week of rugby prep than the resorts of Fiji’s Coral Coast.

3 How good has been the rise of the Drua?

The Drua deserve great credit for not just making the play-offs for the first time in just their second season but how they have played to do so. Look further than the freakish offloads and ball-running and you’ll see a hardworking team on defence and one that has immeasurably improved at scrum and lineout time. Drua coach Mick Byrne deserves to be Super Rugby Coach of the Year for pulling all the pieces together. He said it beautifully on air with Stan Sport. “What the team has learnt and how good they have become over the last two years deserves great credit,” Byrne said.

4 Fizzer from the Reds

The Reds were outscored 24-0 in the second half with their season on the line and it could have been worse because the Drua had three tries disallowed. The wet conditions made things tricky for sure but momentum was sapped again and again by poor handling with James O’Connor, Harry Wilson, Angus Blyth and Matt Faessler dropping ball. As for Filipo Daugunu having his clearing kick charged down in the opening minutes…take your time and conceding a try is what is going to happen.

5 Suva soundtrack

The soundtrack for rugby in Suva will take some beating if your stadium tastes extend to YMCA by the Village People, Simply The Best from the late Tina Turner and Queen’s I Want To Break Free. The rollicking good time had by the Fijian fans suggested it was a “yes” from them.

More Stories