Last game to be a cracker
31 May, 2023, 11:10 am
The Swire Shipping Fijian Drua players will need to back themselves up and play footy to fulfill their top 8 target from the start of the Shop N Save Super Rugby Pacific this season.
And that’s what the season plan from the coaches coming down on the pitch every day.
With a good coaching staff, that has sort of led the Drua in the direction that they do want to play to the moment and kept its quarter-final dream alive with a dramatic one-point win over the vastly improved Moana Pasifika side.
The visitors were seconds away from creating history (recording their first win in the Super Rugby Pacific competition) and breaking thousands of Fijian hearts, but former ACT Brumbies and Wallaby star Christian Leali’ifano missed the crucial conversion that would have seen the Pacific Islanders sneak ahead by a point.
The crunch battle between the Drua and Moana was a nailbiter in the end. As predicted by rugby pundits, the much-anticipated clash was a classic display of running rugby at its best, filled with Pacific rivalry, fierce competition, and a lot of hard and solid hits.
As the dust settled, a sizzling hat-trick to find-of-the-season Iosefo Masi, who was named player of the match, propelled the Drua against Aaron Mauger’s side, which was desperately unlucky not to grab a last-ditch victory in a 14-try thriller as the side crossed for a 79th-minute try to replacement hooker Sam Moli.
Masi was superb on a warm, dry afternoon in Lautoka as he cut the Moana defence to shreds en route to three tries, 90 metres on the carry, five defenders beaten and three clean breaks.
The Drua got big-time displays out of Masi, fullback Ilaisa Droasese and halfback Frank Lomani in their always threatening backline, while up front charging Joseva Tamani and Ratu Meli Derenalagi were the pick of the forwards.
The battle, which kept fans at the edge of their seats, featured plenty of scintillating attacking play, and a lot less in the way of steely defence.
For the Drua a fifth victory of the season, improved the side to 21 points, leaving them in with a shot at the quarterfinals, providing the side finishes well in its regular season finale at home to the Reds this Saturday.
For the Moana a 13th consecutive defeat for the campaign means the side needs a win against the Waratahs in Sydney to avoid the schneid.
Against the Reds, the Drua needs a win (a bonus point win will be supplementary) and hope for other results to go its way.
The Drua is still in the hunt, but an 80-minute performance is required to beat the visitors who are also in the hunt and will need a win vs the Drua to seal the deal.
Lapse of concentration can be deadly as shown by the Moana so every ounce of strength must be devoted to containing the Reds onslaught.
- Rajnesh Lingam is a regular contributor to this newspaper and the views expressed in this article are his and not of The Fiji Times.