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Reds no match for Fijian Drua in Suva as red card spoils homecoming

By AAP
Salestino Ravutaumada of the Fijian Drua with the ball in hand. Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images

The Queensland Reds’ Super Rugby Pacific home finals hopes have all but evaporated in a crushing homecoming for fallen Wallabies star Suliasi Vunivalu.

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Vunivalu was sent off following two trips that cost the Reds dearly in a 28-19 loss to Fijian Drua in Suva.

Saturday’s defeat left Queensland in fifth spot, eight competition points behind the fourth-placed Brumbies with two rounds remaining.

The Brumbies can put a top-four finish – and home playoff – officially out of the Reds’ reach if they beat struggling defending champions the Crusaders in Canberra later on Saturday.

Vunivalu could not have envisaged such a nightmare return to his native Fiji after leaving his side a player short for 30 minutes of the game.

His first leg trip on Drua flanker Kitiona Salawa left Australian referee Angus Gardner with no alternative than to award the home team a fourth-minute penalty try.

With Vunivalu in the sin bin, hooker Tevita Ikanivere also stormed over to earn the Drua a 10-0 lead inside eight minutes.

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The Reds hit back with nice replies from winger Floyd Aubrey and flyhalf Lawson Creighton to only trail 15-14 at halftime.

Attack

131
Passes
163
79
Ball Carries
114
202m
Post Contact Metres
248m
5
Line Breaks
10

But Vunivalu’s dismissal shortly after the break proved the tipping point.

This time he stuck a rogue leg out that caught his Fiji opposite Selestino Ravutaumada in the lead-up to Ikanivere’s second try of the day.

Down by 11 points and to 14 men, not even the introduction of veteran former Wallabies star James O’Connor could save the Reds.

The Reds further shot themselves in the foot with wayward lineout throws and ill-disciplined penalties as the eighth-placed Drua all but shored up their own finals spot.

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They briefly had hope of snatching victory from the jaws of the defeat after a 77th-minute driving maul try to replacement forward George Blake.

Instead, the Reds were denied even a precious bonus point through a last-gasp Drua penalty goal from Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula that stretched the winning margin beyond seven points.

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