The Fijian Drua are officially the National Rugby Championship team to beat in 2017, after their comprehensive 41-5 win over defending title-holders Perth Spirit in Fiji.
The home side were outstanding in defence, not letting Perth Spirit into the game until the 70th minute, ensuring the capacity crowd at the National Stadium in Suva were at their vocal best all match.
“We’re a well organised team, a disciplined team. We had to stand on our ground, keep working hard, and I was very proud of the boys, especially the discipline,” a very satisfied Fijian Drua skipper John Stewart said immediately after the match.
“We were talking all week about our defence. We had to improve it 150%, because only that can win us the game. We are a structured team, and we had to make our tackles, and full credit to the boys for working so hard in defence”
“We spoke at the start of the year, and we don’t just want to make up the numbers [in the NRC]. We want to compete, and we won’t rest here. This is just the beginning,” Stewart said.
“We’ll keep working hard, and try and go as far as we can.”
— Oceania Rugby (@oceaniarugby) September 23, 2017It took nineteen minutes for the first points of the match, as both sides worked their way into what was already a really physical match.
Lock Peni Naulago was held up, and from a scrum soon after in which the Drua pack looked tryline bound, scrumhalf Frank Lomani picked it up for a short blindside dart for the corner.
Fullback Apisalome Waqatabu couldn’t convert, but he scored under the posts himself only minutes later, running onto a perfect Eroni Vasiteri offload that should be taught in schools.
Perth found themselves behind the posts again in the 26th minute, after Lomani toed ahead a loose ball, only to be brought down just short of the line. No.8 Peni Raidre won the clean-out and dived over to score next to the posts.
Perth Spirit didn’t necessarily do a lot wrong in the first thirty minutes of the game, but once they found themselves well behind on the scoreboard, the mistakes quickly mounted as they attempted to play catch-up. It became self-fulfilling in the end; the harder they tried to get back into the game, the more mistakes they made.
The home side had the last say in the first half when Stewart scored in the corner after a wonderful scrum play back near the 40-metre line. Waqatabu couldn’t convert, but the home side went to break leading 24-0.
A 51st minute penalty from Waqatabu opened the scoring in the second half, pushing the home side out to what already looked an insurmountable 27-0 lead, and it was made all the stronger soon after when big lock Filimoni Seru crashed over minutes later.
Spirit no.8 Isi Naisarani was again one of his side’s best, but his consolation try didn’t really add any respectability to the margin.
Stewart crossed late in the game to complete his double and confirm the final score, kicking off the party in true Fiji style.
Fijian Drua 41
Tries: J. Stewart 2, F. Lomani, A. Waqatabu, P. Raidre, F. Seru
Cons: A. Waqatabu 4/6
Pens: A. Waqatabu 1/1
Perth Spirit 5
Try: I. Naisarani