Solid Drua de­fence clips wings of Coun­try Ea­gles

Fiji Sun - - Front Page - CHARLES CHAM­BERS Edited by Osea Bola Feed­back: charles.cham­bers@fi­jisun­com.fj

Eroni Va­si­teri of the Fiji Air­ways Drua rugby team breaks through a tackle against NSW Coun­try Ea­gles in their Aus­tralian Na­tional Rugby Cham­pi­onship match at Si­ga­toka’s Lawaqa Park on Septem­ber 16, 2017.

The 31-14 win is the Drua’s se­cond suc­ces­sive vic­tory com­ing into the cham­pi­onship and their first win recorded at home. They play NRC de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Perth Spirit this Satur­day at Suva’s ANZ Sta­dium at 3pm.

Fiji Air­ways Drua con­tin­ued their daz­zling per­for­mance by beat­ing last year’s Aus­tralia Na­tional Rugby Cham­pi­onship’s fi­nal­ist NSW Coun­try Ea­gles 31-14 at Lawaqa Park, Si­ga­toka yes­ter­day.

The win came through some fe­ro­cious de­fence put on by the Drua side which stunned the visi­tors. Ea­gles cap­tain Paddy Ryan ad­mit­ted he was amazed at Fiji’s de­fence when his team were al­ways on at­tack in­side the Drua’s 22-me­tre line.

Af­ter los­ing star first five-eighth Pe­celi Nacebe through an an­kle in­jury in the 3rd minute, the Senirusi Seru­vakula coached- side came back with cap­tain Mos­ese Voka lead­ing the charge.

“We knew we had lost our star player but the play­ers ral­lied to put on a stand­out per­for­mance,” Voka said. Al­though out­mus­cled dur­ing the scrums, the side held their ground dur­ing mauls and threw their bod­ies on the line with ev­ery tackle.

What hap­pened: Fiji’s first try came in the 12th minute fol­low­ing a turnover. In­ter-pass­ing fol­low­ing a break from Sa­muela Saqiwa, hooker Ratu­naisa Navuma ended up with half­back Frank Lo­mani scor­ing.

Fiji led 5-0 af­ter full­back Apisa­lome Waqatabu missed the con­ver­sion.

Ea­gles came back with a try to cen­tre Se­bas­tian Wile­man which was con­verted by first five eighth Tayler Adams to lead 7-5.

Drua’s winger Eroni Sau, a for­mer Voda­fone Fi­jian Bati, scored the se­cond try for the hosts to lead 10 -7 at half­time.

Forty sec­onds into the se­cond spell, Waqatabu pounced onto a grub­ber to score in the cor­ner which he con­verted for the 17-7 lead.

The Drua fur­ther their lead in the 43rd minute when Lo­mani scored his close span se­cond try af­ter Apete Daveta scooped a loose ball in their 22-me­tre. With the con­ver­sion by Waqatabu and the 24 -7 lead, Drua never looked back.

The visi­tors came back with a penalty try in 65th minute which saw Sau be­ing sin-binned for tack­ling Ea­gles winger Andrew Kell­away as he had leapt to catch a cross kick from Adams.

Daveta scored which was con­verted by Waqatabu. In the 67th minute re­place­ment half­back Seru Cavuilati was sin-binned for a high tackle which saw Fiji play­ing with 13 play­ers.

Cavuilati later scored the last try of the match.

Com­ments: Voka said it was an hon­our to win in front of the home crowd.

“When Nacebe went out, I spoke to the team that we must rally to­gether.”

He said the hard work dur­ing the week paid off for the win.

Ryan said he was dis­ap­pointed with the loss. “We thought we had a bit of a chance when the Drua lost their No.10 as he has been the best player in the com­pe­ti­tion so far.

“But they played re­ally well and ral­lied as a team and were the bet­ter side of the day.”

Ryan said the heat was not a fac­tor but be­ing pro­fes­sional and semi-pro­fes­sional play­ers, their ball han­dling was not at its best.

He said the Drua side had brought a dif­fer­ent ball game to the com­pe­ti­tion.

“I hope we can get teams from Tonga and Samoa in the com­pe­ti­tion in the fu­ture.”

Photo: Waisea Na­sokia

Photo: Waisea Na­sokia

Fiji Air­ways Drua winger Apete Daveta scores a try against NSW Coun­try Ea­gles in the NRC clash at the Lawaqa Park in Si­ga­toka on Septem­ber 16, 2017.

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