Solid Drua defence clips wings of Country Eagles
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.”
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.