Greg Clark analyses the performance of the Drua against the Reds and gives his take on the team shaping up to face the Western Force in round 5.
Never say never. Just when it seemed the unbeaten Queensland Reds were about to run up a big score against the Drua at Suncorp last weekend, that fighting Fijian spirit kicked into gear.
Down 15-6 at the break and 28-9 in the second half, the Drua again proved that they belong in Super Rugby Pacific. In the first two weeks they were impatient and didn’t protect the ball. Not so in the last two games.
Following on from their upset victory over the Rebels, the Drua again came home with a wet sail in Brisbane, outscoring the Reds 22 points to 18 in the second half.
Okay, they didn’t go on to win it, but after clawing back to 28-all it looked like a boilover was on the cards, and what an upset it would have been. The Reds were the best team in Australia last year.
In the first three games the Drua scored 70% of their points in the second half and that was the case again in Brisbane. A real tribute to the strength and conditioning staff and the finishers coming off the bench.
The Drua had to settle for the losing bonus point after the Reds scored late to win by 5. Drua are now on 5 points and in 9th place on the ladder, two points adrift of 8th placed Western Force, who they play this Saturday in Sydney. Remember, the Top 8 go through to the play-offs in early June.
It’s early days but Head Coach Mick Byrne believes his side is capable of pulling off a couple of victories over the next few weeks which will see them climb the ladder. The coach says they’re realising they are fit enough, and they’re now confident in their ability to perform at this level.
There was a lot to like about the Drua’s effort in Brisbane. Ball security improved and the scrum held up despite Taniela Tupou packing down in the front row for the Reds. The line-out was better but losing the last one in the match on their own throw five metres out was costly.
However, the Drua conceded 5 tries so the Coaches have been focusing on defence this week. Byrne says the Force are a physical side and like to move the ball so the Drua will need to aim up.
Super Rugby Pacific is one of the fastest tournaments in the world and it takes time to fully adjust to the pace of the game. While there is room for improvement at the breakdown and cleaning out, Byrne believes they are going well in those areas of the game.
Teti Tela looks to have cemented his spot at flyhalf, combining well with scrumhalves Peni Matawalu and Frank Lomani last week. Vinaya Habosi again showed his class and pace on the wing.
He’s impressed Mick Byrne with the way he prepares himself and how he doesn’t shy away from the physical stuff. The same can be said about the centre pairing of Kalaveti Ravouvou and Apisalome Vota.
This week’s opponents, the Western Force, have made 6 changes in the run-on side, three of them forced. Tom Robertson, Kyle Godwin and Toni Pulu are all injured.
Force head coach Tim Sampson has told his players to be wary of the Drua. He says the Fijians are highly skilled, they love up-tempo play and are dangerous with ball in hand. The priority is to shut them down and be on high alert for the full 80.
After another loss last week to the Waratahs, Sampson wants his players to roll their sleeves up and do the hard yakka (work). As the Reds found out in the second half last week, drop a ball or fall off a tackle and the Fijian Drua will make you pay big time.
As this is a Drua ‘home’ game, I will call all the action with former Western Force star Sam Wykes and former Fijiana XV captain Lailanie Burnes. I hope you can join us, and I look forward to seeing plenty of Sydney-based Fiji rugby fans at Leichardt Oval on Saturday arvo.