April 30, 2022
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Drua go down fighting in Suva

The Swire Shipping Fijian Drua gave away a 24-17 halftime lead to lose its first Super Rugby Pacific match on home soil, 27-24 to the Highlanders at the ANZ Stadium in Suva today.

A huge crowd packed up the Laucala oval to cheer on the Mick Byrne coached side.

The hosts had to make a late change to the starting team and brought in Joseva Tamani at Number 6 in place of Vilive Miramira while Captain Meli Derenalagi shifted to Number 7.

Kitione Salawa came on the bench as cover for the flankers while another change in the reserves saw Timoci Sauvoli replace Meli Tuni.

The Highlanders dup deep for the win which took them through to to near 60 minutes before taking the upper hand.

The Fijian Drua scored first when an attempted kick behind saw Kitione Taliga begin the counter attack.

The crowd came alive when, quick recycling from Frank Lomani saw Apisalome Vota clear the ball to Vinaya Habosi who raced down the paddock to find Lomani in support who went in for the first try with flyhalf Teti Tela adding the conversion just three minutes in.

The Highlanders applied immediate pressure and after two scrums and fast delivery from skipper Aaron Smith, the visitors crossed over with openside winger Sam Gilbert for their first with flyhalf Mitch Hunt leveling the score on eight minutes.

On the 12th minutes mark, the Drua proved again how dangerous they were if you don't control the ball, when a loose carry was pounced on by inside centre Kalaveti Ravouvou who gave a sublime offload to Habosi in open space who raced away for an 80 metre gallop to score under the sticks with Tela adding the two.

Abit of excitement had the Drua defensive line give away an easy penalty with Hunt making them pay from 30 metres out middway in the first half.

The Drua struck again with their third try, when after a continued attack, Tela chipped a well weighted kick from five metres out to find Ravouvou diving to score.

Tela added the two points to send them further in front 21-10 with 24 minutes gone.

Highlanders number eight Marino Mikaele-Tu'u kept them in touch, with a beautiful crash ball topped of with Hunt's conversion eight minutes from the breather.

Smith slipped up an easy ball from behind their own scrum to turn the scrimmage over.

The Drua looked to end the half on a high, a disrupted attack gifted them a penalty.

Skipper Meli Derenalagi called up Tela to collect the three points from halfway, sending the sides to the break with the Drua in front 24-17.

The visitors came out with an urgency in the second half.

With a slow and steady approach throught their attacking platforms the caught the home team offside with Hunt adding another penalty to close the gap to four points in the 49th minute.

The Highlanders kept up the pressure, and produced the results with a lineout maul on the Drua five metre had prop Jermaine Ainsley crash over with Hunt adding the crucial two points to send them infront 63 minutes in.

The Highlanders played it smart, denying the Drua any loose possession.

The Drua dug deep to retake the lead but a stellar defensive effort from the red wave stood strong.

Taliga, Tela and Habosi worked tirelessly in offense but were denied any leeway whatsoever.

The Highlanders hold to the final whistle to win 24-27.

The teams:

Fijian Drua- Haereiti Hetet, Mesulame Dolokoto (Tevita Ikanivere), Manasa Saulo (Samuela Tawake), Viliame Rarasea, Ratu Rotuisolia, Joseva Tamani, Meli Derenalagi (C), Te Ahiwaru Cirikdaveta, Frank Lomani (Simione Kuruvoli), Teli Tela, Vinaya Habosi, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Apisalome Vota, Selestino Ravutaumada (Onisi Ratave), Kitione Taliga (Kitione Ratu).

Highlanders:  Ethan De Groot, Andrew Makalio, Jermaine Ainsley, Bryna Evans, Sam Caird, Christian Lio-Willie, Billy Harmon, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Aaron Smith (C), Mitch Hunt, Scott Gregory (Mosese Dawai), Fetuli Paea, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Sam Gilbert, Connor Garden-Bachop.

By Noa Biudole


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