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Fijian Drua v Hurricanes: Canes take crowd out of it, Drua punished for mistakes

By Finn Morton
Ruben Love of the Hurricanes runs with the ball during the round 10 Super Rugby Pacific match between Fijian Drua and Hurricanes at HFC Stadium, on April 19, 2024, in Suva, Fiji. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

The Hurricanes were far too good for the Fijian Drua in Suva on Friday night as the ladder leaders extended their unbeaten run to eight matches with a 38-15 win.

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Playing in front of a passionate crowd at HFC Bank Stadium, the Hurricanes put on a first-half attacking clinic as they ran in a barrage of tries to almost silence the thousands in attendance.

Billy Proctor, Devan Flanders, Jordie Barrett and James O’Reilly all scored first-half tries as the Hurricanes took a 21-point lead into the half-time sheds.

Match Summary

1
Penalty Goals
1
2
Tries
5
1
Conversions
5
0
Drop Goals
0
158
Carries
65
4
Line Breaks
5
21
Turnovers Lost
12
5
Turnovers Won
9

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It was different after the interval as the momentum swung in the hosts’ favour for the first time. But still, it was never really in doubt that the Hurricanes would be in front at the 80-minute mark.

A big talking point for the Hurricanes this week will be what appeared to be a significant leg injury to vice-captain Asafo Aumua. Aumua was helped off the field during the second 40.

Here are some takeaways from the Hurricanes win over the Fijian Drua.

Hurricanes take Suva crowd ‘out of it’ during clinical win

Fiji might be the hardest place to win in Super Rugby Pacific at the moment. The Dura had matches there this season before Friday night, and the hosts were victorious in each of those fixtures against the Crusaders, Waratahs and Western Force.

Hurricanes coach Clark Laidlaw spoke a couple of times about the challenge awaiting his team in the lead-up to this blockbuster fixture. “We know the challenge that awaits us and how strong they are at home in front of a passionate crowd,” he said this week.

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Before a ball was even kicked, the crowd was already in full voice. Watching a match live in Fiji has to be a bucket list event for any rugby fan – it’s a type of passion and vibrance that almost seems unique to the Pacific Island nation.

But the Hurricanes, to their credit, took the Suva crowd out of the equation during a solid first half. The Drua never really looked to be in control as the visitors ran in four tries to one, with the Canes taking a 28-7 lead into the sheds.

Wing Kini Naholo made a couple of imposing carries down the right edge early on as the Hurricanes started the fixture with front-foot ball and the confidence to match. Centre Billy Proctor scored the opening points of the night shortly after.

“Some of the visiting teams always come with the idea that you just have to slow things down against the Drua on Fiji soil. Take it easy, walk to the lineout, walk to the scrum,” commentator Greg Clark said on Stan Sports’ coverage

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“That’s not (what we’ve seen) tonight from the Hurricanes. They’ve come to play.”

Isikeli Rabitu hit back for the Fijian Drua a couple of minutes later. The crowd was in full voice as their rugby heroes celebrated the 19-year-old’s first-ever try at Super Rugby level.

But then the Hurricanes took control. Devan Flanders, Jordie Barrett and James O’Reilly scored to push the New Zealanders well out in front.

“You can almost hear a pin drop because they’ve taken the crowd out of it again,” commentator Clark said just before the half-time break.

The Drua brought the crowd back into a bit during the second 40 as they started the half quite well, but it never really seemed to be in doubt that this would be the Hurricanes’ night.

Drua made to pay for costly mistakes

The Fijian Drua are a good team and there’s no doubt they can be a ‘great’ team in Super Rugby Pacific in the not-too-distant future. But for now, there’s a gap between them and the best.

As impressive as the Dura were during periods of Friday night’s clash, the Hurricanes were far too clinical in the end. That’s not to say the Fijians didn’t have their chances, either.

If anything, the Hurricanes took control on the back of some costly mistakes from the Drua. The table-toppers are a ‘great’ team because of how they capitalised on these shortcomings.

There were some general mistakes including knock-ons and wayward throws at the lineout, but not all of them ked to points the other way. Instead, there are two first-half instances that cost the Dura on the scoreboard.

First, there was a knock-on off an attacking scrum in the 33rd minute. With fatigue setting in, the Hurricanes made the Drua pay with Jordie Barrett going on to score less than a minute later.

Second, Kemu Valetini sent the following kick-off into touch on the full. The Hurricanes chose to pack down for a scrum, and after winning a penalty and kicking for the corner, the visitors were next to score shortly after.

James O’Reilly ran in for the Hurricanes’ fourth score of the half.

Add in Kemu Valetini missing a long-range penalty attempt at goal – there’s a lot to analyse from that first half alone.

It was a similar story after the break too with the Drua dropping the ball in-contact inside the Hurricanes’ 22. They did the same in the 63rd minute.

With the Hurricanes down to 13 men, after taking a surprising shot at goal, the Drua dropped the ball cold off the kick-off to put themselves under pressure.

If the Drua had held onto the ball and made the most of their opportunities then this could’ve been a different story. They’re a team that’s on the cusp of being ‘great’ but there’s still work to do.

Isikeli Rabitu impresses in battle of young 10s

The Drua made RugbyPass headlines this week by naming 19-year-old Isikeli Rabitu to start in the No. 10 jersey for the first time. Rabitu, who is still eligible for the Fiji Under-20s, had a big task ahead of him against the ladder-leading Hurricanes.

In an exciting match-up, Rabitu was also set to come up against the Hurricanes’ 22-year-old first five Aidan Morgan. It was an opportunity for both men to step up and impress their coaches with Super Rugby Pacific having passed its halfway point.

Rabitu shot out of the blocks with his first career try in the 10th minute. The graduate from Suva Grammar School linked up with Iosefo Masi to send the Suva crowd into a frenzy – and to level the scores at 10-all as well.

The young playmaker had run for 40 metres at the half-time break and was generally quite solid in leading the Drua around the park along with inside centre Kemu Valetini. There was plenty to like about what Isikeli Rabitu did on Friday.

Rabitu had played a bit of fullback for the Drua earlier this season but this was a step up. Overall, it was a positive.

TJ Perenara needs to be an All Black in 2024

With 80 tests of experience to his name, it’s not exactly a hot take to say that TJ Perenara is ready to play for the All Blacks. But with so many talented young No. 9s in the country, it’s certainly not a sure thing that the veteran will get the nod.

Folau Fakatava, Finlay Christie, Cortez Ratima and even Noah Hotham have all shown signs of promise this season, and at least two of those men will almost certainly be playing under Scott Robertson against England in July.

But let’s go back to TJ. Perenara’s looked sensational since returning from an Achilles rupture. The halfback has looked fitter and quicker than he has in years, and Perenara is just generally a smart player on the rugby field.

Perenara had scored four tries in three matches before tonight and added two try assists against the Drua to his impressive stat sheet for the season. The scrum-half was running superb supporting lines and it paid off for the Hurricanes.

This is a takeaway that could be mentioned every time the Hurricanes play for the rest of the season. Without Cam Roigard, Perenara has stepped up and ensured the table-toppers haven’t lost anything.

Poor discipline is unfortunately a talking point for Canes

The Hurricanes had three players sent to the sin bin.

Du’Plessis Kirifi was the first to go for a high tackle and Isaia Walker-Leawere followed shortly after. Just before the end of the match, Caleb Delany was also shown a yellow card by referee Paul Williams.

While they managed to win on Friday night, this is a talking point. If poor discipline carries into next week and beyond for the Hurricanes then their unbeaten record will be under threat.

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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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