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Fijian Drua claim famous win, hand Crusaders third straight loss

By Ned Lester
Vilive Miramira of the Fijian Drua. Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images

Two winless teams met in the cauldron that is Lautoka to kick off Saturday’s epic slate of Super Rugby Pacific fixtures, with the Crusaders visiting the Fijian Drua.

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It’s a fixture that was famously won by the Drua in 2023, but it was the Crusaders who had the last laugh that season, beating the Fijians 49-8 in Christchurch in the quarter-final en route to a seventh title in as many years.

It was the Drua’s day once more at home, with a roaring crowd celebrating another famous win for the side after a tight and tense 80 minutes.

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The Drua were looking dangerous early as they broke the Crusaders’ line in the opening minute and a cross-field kick almost found the waiting arms of the lethal Selestino Ravutaumada.

The Drua’s early kicking game was ambitious but lacking execution on contestable efforts, but they did enjoy some quality exits.

The Crusaders were the first to land points, thanks to the boot of young first five-eight Taha Kemara, capitalising on a Drua indiscretion.

The reigning champions’ lineout continued to look uncharacteristically shaky but their scrum was dominant and a reliable source of momentum as they launched some disjointed attacks under the benefit of penalty advantage.

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The backline found some cohesion to execute a superb lineout strike in the 20th minute, a play that saw centre Levi Aumua draw a crowd and then find Sevu Reece on the inside who showed blistering pace to burn the final defenders and score under the posts.

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
2.1
8
Entries
Avg. Points Scored
0.8
8
Entries

It was then a scrum penalty to the Drua that offered the home side their first chance at points, an opportunity which was converted by Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula.

The half-hour mark saw chaos unleashed with superb counterattacks from both teams foiled near each try line. Iosefo Masi was the instigator for the Drua while ball movement and pace from debutant Heremaia Murray found metres for the Crusaders.

Some superb vision from Frank Lomani gave Ravutaumada an inch of space on the wing which was all the in-form Flying Fijian needed, shrugging off the first tackle before stepping the second and third and diving over the line for a World-class finish that tied proceedings after the successful conversion.

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The half ended with a missed penalty attempt from the Crusaders, leaving the score at 10 apiece.

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Damp conditions contributed to some handling errors in the first half and didn’t take long to feature in the second. The Drua received possession after some strong defence and looked to double down on their upper hand in the collision area.

A couple of powerful counter-rucks to begin the second 40 also contributed to the Fijians’ momentum and a well-deserved try to Lomani put the home team in front.

The Crusaders had slowed the game down well after entering that deficit and looked to be building some momentum, but the Drua only needed a sniff and they launched a charge downfield.

Handling issues continued to be prominent as the game entered its final quarter and points were hard to come by.

A failed intercept over the try line almost saw Crusaders flanker Dom Gardiner steal a game-levelling effort with 15 minutes remaining in the contest. The referee ruled it a fair and realistic intercept attempt and awarded just a penalty.

Defence

59
Tackles Made
153
25
Tackles Missed
37
70%
Tackle Completion %
81%

The Fijians struggled to exit and ended up defending near the try line again shortly after, but the Crusaders again knocked the ball on in contact.

That man Ravutaumada got his hands on the ball and shredded the defence once more, getting his team beyond the halfway line before another run from the winger after a scrum made it well past the 22.

Execution continued to prove difficult in the conditions so in the 77th minute young Armstrong-Ravula stepped up to the tee and calmly extended his team’s lead to 10.

The Drua’s attacking ambition didn’t relent once that lead was cemented, hanging onto the ball and even putting in another cross-field kick which ultimately saw them penalised for an offside offence.

The team had done enough already though and saw the game out with a final scrum. Frank Lomani was awarded Man of the Match for a superb performance. Final score: 20-10.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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