NRC: Fijian Drua down Force to clinch historic minor premiership

NRC
by Fraser Stewart

The Fijian Drua have claimed the NRC minor premiership and a home final, by defeating the Western Force in a second half comeback.

The hugely impressive Drua also took home the Horan-Little Shield for 2018, after coming from behind 14-7 at half time to defeat the Force 33-28.

The Force picked up a losing bonus point but slipped down to third - and missed a home semi-final next week - due to Queensland Country winning with a bonus-point in Tamworth.

The Drua will host the fourth-placed finisher, which is highly likely to be the winner of the Brisbane City vs Canberra Vikings clash on Sunday.

After a somewhat lacklustre first half in Perth, where both teams missed clear scoring opportunities through some uncharacteristic mistakes, it was the Western Force who drew first blood after Rod Davies dotted  over the chalk to make it 7-0 inside the first five minutes.

The Force collected another try four minutes later, when Rodney Iona planted the ball down after some fantastic build up play form the skipper, Ian Priror to make it 14-0 inside 10 minutes.

It was clear that the Force came in with a plan and they seemed to execute it in the opening stanza. The Drua like to have the ball in hand and play an offload game but they didn’t get much of a chance as they rarely had the  ball or the momentum they use to torch rivals.

The Drua struggled in the scrum, which was no match for the Force and the home side capitalised on their territory dominance by ticking over the scoreboard.

You can't count out the Fijian Drua, though, a couple of threatening linebreaks from Alivereti Veitokani showed showed everyone at the UWA Sports Park why the Fijians are the best attacking team in the competition.

They couldn't turn either into a try though due to dropped ball but nor could the Force extend their lead, when Jack McGregor knocked the ball on from a Brad Lacey pass close to the line.

You can only hold back the Drua for so long and they finally hit the scoreboard five minutes before the main break when they ran the ball from the length of the field and Levani Kurumudu scored.


The Western Force had one last chance to extend their lead right before half time, when they opted for a driving maul but some desperate defending by the Drua pushed them into touch.

The Fijian Drua looked a different side coming into the second half, playing with confidence they desperately needed and ten minutes into the second half, Aporosa Tabulawaki crossed the chalk and levelled the scores.

An intercept by fullback, Enele Malele on the 59th minute, put a halt to some broken play and he ran the length of the pitch to give the lead to the Drua for the first time in the match.

The Force were not done yet and midway through the second half, Davies scored his second as he ran down the wing to make the scores level for the second time.

But the Drua responded when they scored two tries in five minutes from Apisalome Vota and Veitokani setting up a 21-33 lead with eight minutes to go.

The Force got a consolation try after the buzzer when Deegan barged over the line to make the full time score 28-33. 

It gained them a bonus point but it wasn't enough to deny Fiji an historic minor-premiership.

Catch up on all the match stats here

WESTERN FORCE V FIJIAN DRUA

UWA Sports Park.
 
WESTERN FORCE

1. Harrison Lloyd
2. Heath Tessmann
3. Kieran Longbottom
4. Fergus Lee-warner
5. Jeremy Thrush
6. Tevin Ferris
7. Chris Alcock
8. Brynard Stander
9. Ian Prior (c)
10. Andrew Deegan
11. Rod Davies
12. Rodney Iona
13. Henry Taefu
14. Brad Lacey
15. Jack McGregor
Reserves

16. Alifelete Kaitu'u
17. Cameron Orr
18. Chris Heiberg
19. Leon Power
20. Henry Stowers
21. Issak Fines-Leleiwasa,
22. AJ Alatimu
23. Clay Uyen

FIJIAN DRUA

1. Joeli Veitayaki
2. Ratu Navuma
3. Benji Makutu
4. Peni Naulago
5. Albert Tuisue
6. Mosese Voka (c)
7. Jone Navori
8. Eremasi Radrodro
9. Frank Lomani
10. Alivereti Veitokani
11. Aporosa Tabulawaki
12. Cyril Reece
13. Apisalome Vota
14. Levani Kurumudu
15. Enele Malele

Reserves

16. Mesu Dolakoto
17. Eroni Mawi
18. Luke Tagi
19. Tevita Naqali
20. Johnny Dyer
21. Seru Vularika
22. Apisalome Waqatabu
23. Lepani Raiyala