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'I wasn't really thinking': Drua super sub reflects on 'unreal' debut vs Crusaders

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

Fijian Drua debutant Kemu Valetini forged his name into Super Rugby history with an 83rd minute penalty goal against the champion Crusaders at Churchill Park on Saturday.

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Playing in front of their home fans for the first time this season, the Drua ensured that it was a day that the rugby world would never forget.

It will go down in history as one of the greatest upsets in the history of Super Rugby.

The match started as many expected; the Crusaders raced out to a commanding 12-nil lead midway through the first half, as they began to live up to their ‘favourites’ tag.

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But the Drua weren’t going to throw in the towel anytime soon. This is a team full of belief and passion, who were spurred on by the vibrant crowd in Lautoka.

While they went into the half-time break trailing by seven, the hosts later took the lead after tries to Ilaisa Droasese, Joseva Tamani and Eroni Sau.

With just 10 minutes to play, the Drua were on the cusp of rugby immortality. One of the greatest days in the history of Fijian rugby was within reach.

But the Crusaders hit back through Sevu Reece and Ioane Moananu, and regained the lead with less than a minute to run on the clock.

History had seemingly slipped through their grasp, but the Drua unleashed one final attacking onslaught on the Crusaders – and it worked.

The Drua were awarded a penalty after the full-time siren, and a debutant stepped up to complete the fairytale finish that his side had worked so tirelessly for.

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Kemu Valetini, the older brother of Wallabies loose forward Rob, said he “wasn’t really thinking much” as he lined up his famous shot at goal.

“To come on in the last five minutes with the game in the balance with the Crusaders, they’re a team that doesn’t go away, doesn’t matter how long the game goes for, they can play until the 90th minute if they really wanted to,” Valetini told RugbyPass.

“I wasn’t really thinking much to be honest.

“There was a lot going on, the crowd was loud, the boys were jumping on me because this is probably an opportunity for us to really put our mark on Super Rugby Pacific.

“I’ve done that kick a thousand times, probably a million times over in my head as a kid… I’ve had moments like that before where I probably haven’t executed the kick as well as I would have.

“It’s a massive step for myself and it just probably gave me a lot of confidence that I can handle the high pressure situations at Super Rugby.”

Valetini’s road to Super Rugby has been tough, but he’s persevered in the pursuit of his rugby dreams.

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At 28 years of age, Valetini has had to overcome a number of injuries en route to his Super Rugby debut.

The Fijian Drua hero has previously plied his trade with the Melbourne Rising, had a stint in Spain, and played for Manly in Sydney’ Shute Shield competition.

But for it all to play out the way it did on Saturday was simply “unreal.”

“To be on debut, it was crazy,” he added.

“I was just sitting on the sideline, it was ticking over 70 minutes and I was like, ‘I’m not sure if I’ll get on here.’

“One of the boys all game was just like, ‘Bro just be ready, you never know what’s gonna, you could get on, something could happen.’

“I didn’t get time to warm up or anything. To do that against the Crusaders, the defending champions and have my debut like that, especially the place where all my family were watching from the sidelines.

“Ultimately winning the game for Fijian Drua was unreal, was special, something I probably won’t forget for a very long time.”

Following the win over the Crusaders, the Fijian Drua sit in fifth place on this year’s Super Rugby Pacific standings after three rounds.

Next up, the Drua travel to Brisbane for a crunch clash against the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

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