Salem Radio Network News Sunday, October 1, 2023


Rugby-Fijian Drua romp into playoffs, Reds left to sweat

By Nick Mulvenney

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Fijian Drua hammered the Queensland Reds 41-17 in Suva on Saturday to romp into the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs in only their second season in the competition and leave the Australians sweating on other results.

The Drua stuck with their running rugby despite greasy conditions at a packed HFC Bank Stadium and were rewarded with six tries and a place in the quarter-finals, where they will meet the Waikato Chiefs or the Canterbury Crusaders.

The Reds went into halftime on level terms at 17-17 but wilted in the second half and now need the Chiefs to beat the Western Force later on Saturday to secure post-season play.

“Hats off to the soldiers behind me for turning up for duty today,” said Drua captain Meli Derenalagi.

“Our fans being behind us throughout the season has been a major enjoyment for our players and that’s why they are playing their hearts out today.”

The Drua, who have now won five of six matches on home soil this season, scored first-half tries through fullback Selestino Ravutaumada, winger Kalaveti Ravouvou and flanker Vilive Miramira, whose 33rd-minute effort levelled up the scores.

The second half was one-way traffic as unrelenting running from the home side and the Suva heat took its toll on the Reds players.

Prop Mesake Doge and hooker Tevita Ikanivere scored tries and a couple more were ruled out by the match officials before lock Joseva Tamani snatched up a loose ball and cantered half the length of the field to put a gloss on the scoreline.

Moana Pasifika, the other team to join the competition last year, also had a day to remember when a 33-24 upset of the New South Wales Waratahs at Sydney Football Stadium gave them a first win in 14 matches this season.

Winger Timoci Tavatavanawai and flanker Miracle Failagi both scored two tries and former Wallabies flyhalf Christian Lealiifano also crossed as the visitors embarrassed the Waratahs ahead of their playoff against the Auckland Blues next week.

Drua’s victory ended the Otago Highlanders’ slender hopes of a playoff berth and the eighth spot in the quarter-finals will be decided in the final match of the regular season later on Saturday.

The Force can leapfrog the Reds, and possibly the Drua, in the standings and move into a playoff spot if they beat the competition-leading Chiefs in Perth.

In Saturday’s other match, the Wellington Hurricanes laid down a marker ahead of their quarter-final against the ACT Brumbies by coming from 19-8 behind at halftime in the New Zealand capital to beat the reigning champion Crusaders 27-26.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; editing by Robert Birsel and Ed Osmond)


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