Debutant Kemu Valetini’s penalty right at the death saw the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua create history at Churchill Park in Lautoka today, beating defending champions, the Crusaders 25-24.
The match gave the sold-out crowd maximum value for every dollar they spent as the hosts displayed sheer commitment and took on their much superior and classy opponents with a lot of confidence.
The western heat somewhat took its toll on the visitors but they started the clash well.
Just three minutes into the match, the Drua could have gone up through right winger Selestino Ravutaumada but he was tackled into touch by the Crusaders defence.
Teti Tela missed a penalty from a scoring angle in the 5th minute before the Crusaders found their rhythm and scored two back to back tries through hooker Quentin MacDonald to grab a 12-0 lead
The two tries woke the Fijians up and Olympian Iosefo Masi picked up a loose ball just beside Reece and raced away to touch down, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Tela failed with his kick.
Head coach Mick Byrne made the first change for the side, putting Sameula Tawake in place of Jone Koroi to add more depth to the game.
In the 38th minute, halfback Frank Lomani made a bursting run and was tackled just short of the try-line. He however released the ball to a rampaging Apisalome Vota who seemed to have got the leveling try, only to be denied by the Technical Match Official (TMO) as he failed to ground the ball well in his desperation.
The Crusaders led 12-5 at the break.
The Drua returned to the second half with more focus and clear intentions to lift their game and prove their worth.
Drua contested hard in the second spell and a set piece play from Vota to fullback Ilaisa Droasese, saw him score between the sticks in the 50th minute and Tela converted to tie up the scores.
The Crusaders tried to re-group and comeback in the match but Tom Christie lost the ball forward during an infield play.
An open side ball off the base to Ravutaumada, who barged up into contact onto the 22 to find Lomani saw the halfback float a long pass to an unmarked Joseva Tamani as he dived in the corner to put Drua into the lead for the first time in the match but Tela failed to convert.
Things went from bad to worse for Scott Roberston’s side was when a pandemonium by Drua saw flanker Kitione Salawa break through one tackle and burst into the 22 before offloading the ball to sledgehammer Eroni Sau to score on his Super Rugby debut in the 67th minute.
Tela’s conversion remained unsuccessful as Drua led 22-12.
Five minute later, the Crusaders came in with a response, and after being tackled down several times just short of the line, they managed to sneak in through winger Reece but the conversion attempt failed.
In the 77th minute, the Crusaders were awarded a lineout which Whitelock caught and swung it to Reece as they pushed through the Drua defence and super-sub Ioane Moannu got the ball onto the try line and this time Burke converted to take a slender 24-22 lead.
In the final minute of play, Drua fought hard for possession and won a penalty right in the end which Valetini kicked confidently for the winner.