October 22, 2017
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Fijian Drua suffers first home defeat

The Fiji Airways Drua side suffered its first loss on home soil yesterday after going down 24-17 to Queensland Country in the National Rugby Championship (NRC) at Churchill Park in Lautoka.

The win also sees Queensland Country snatch the Horan-Little Shield from the Fijians.

The four-tries-to-three win also pushes Queensland Country to the top spot in the standings and they will be looking to wrap up a home final in next weekend’s final round match against Perth Spirit.

Fijian Drua picked up a bonus point in the seven-point loss, but are vulnerable in their quest to qualify for a maiden NRC finals series.

 They will now need an impressive result against the Sydney Rays next Saturday in Suva.

The Round 8 fixture watched by a big crowd in Lautoka got off to a good start and the visitors were first to get on the score-board through No.8 Caleb Timu.

Fijian Drua Lock Mataiasi Ucutabua found himself in the sin bin in the 24th minute after repeated infringements, with Country’s scrum taking advantage and Timu crashing over for his second try to take a 12-0 lead.

Captain John Stewart carried a couple of defenders over for their first points of the match for the hosts and fullback Apisalome Waqatabu converted to narrow the scores to 12-7.

Waqatabu also got booked for tripping an opponent from the restart.

Queensland Country went to the break with a 12-7 lead.

The hosts levelled the score straight after the break, with Waqatabu scoring in the corner but the Drua found themselves back in penalty trouble with their scrum unable to withstand the Queensland Country pressure and as a result Mosese Ducivaki earned the home side’s third card of the day in the 55th minute.

Queensland Country went ahead in the 61st minute with flyhalf Teti Tela scoring from out wide.

A Fijian Drua special from deep in their own half produced a definite try of the year candidate in the 68th minute, scrumhalf Frank Lomani finishing off a nice movement, including a wonderful back-of-the-hand flick pass from winger Eroni Sau.

With a 17-17 score-line, the last 10 minutes of the match became more thrilling.

Fijian flyer Etonia Nabuli scored the winning try for Queensland Country after diving in the corner in the dying minutes and a successful conversion from James Tuttle from the sideline further consolidated the important win.

By Reginald Chandar

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