CLARKIE'S CORNER - ROUND 9

CLARKIE'S CORNER - ROUND 9

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3 months ago

Match Previews

Greg Clark evaluates the Drua's performance so far in their inaugural season and looks at the games to come.

8 games down and another 6 to go, and as the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua have a bye this week I thought it was a timely opportunity to reflect on the campaign so far and to look ahead to the match up with the Kiwi sides.

I must admit that I was hoping the Drua would have another couple of wins to show for their efforts and be in with a realistic chance of making the Top 8 play-offs in June.

While it was great to see them chalk up their first win of the season in just the third week of the tournament, not a lot has gone to plan since then. I never thought it was going to be easy, but what a difference another couple of wins would have made.

The games against the Reds and Force were there for the taking, but the odd mistake and being on the wrong end of a couple of 50-50 calls by the referee meant they had to settle for a single losing bonus point rather than the 4 points for a win.

I’ve made a point of highlighting the Drua’s poor starts by not getting the scoreboard ticking over. They still haven’t scored a try in the opening 20 minutes of a game. 160 minutes without scoring a five pointer in the opening quarter But as Head Coach Mick Byrne points out, it’s not for the want of trying. They have put themselves in a position to score early in games but just haven’t been able to finish it off.

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Each week I hope that they learn quickly from their previous mistakes but it’s clearly not going to be an overnight fix. They’ve scored 16 tries at an average of 2 per game and most of them are in the second half.

I long for the game where they get off to a flyer, lead at half time and then go on with the job. Will that happen against the Kiwi teams in coming weeks? Let’s hope so.

Onto the positives. The scrum has been more than satisfactory and will only keep on improving. Goal kicking percentages are pretty good and there are ample offloads and tackle busts to make the opposition take notice.

On the flipside, the negatives. The line-out has been a problem since day one. Only winning around 70% of your own throws simply isn’t good enough at this level. Not having a settled Lock combination doesn’t help either, but I understand that the Coaches are searching for the right combo – one they can rely on.

Less than 20% of the Drua’s tries start from a set piece. Over 80% of their tries are scored from unstructured play. Somewhere in between would be nice as I can’t see Kiwi teams offering up too many opportunities.

Far too often a promising attacking raid breaks down when the last player in possession throws a 50-50 pass or tries to get away an impossible off-load. Going to ground and setting it up again as the opposition is back peddling should be the play… but try telling that to a Fijian who has grown up on running rugby and keeping the ball off the deck! There is no better sight than seeing Fijians flying down the field and offloading to a supporting player. Only problem is we don’t see enough of it.

There’s a common belief that the Drua are missing 5 or 6 experienced players, but there is plenty of potential. Stand outs for me so far have been back rowers Derenalagi, Miramira, Salawa and Tamani.

In the backline – Lomani (when he’s not giving away penalties), Habosi, Ratave, Ravouvou and Vota. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much of the 7s stars apart from Derenalagi, because of injury. Hopefully Taliga, Bolaca and Nasoko will get more game time in weeks ahead.

So, here’s the schedule to finish off the inaugural season. Blues away, Highlanders at home in Suva on April 30th, Hurricanes away, Moana Pasifika in Western Sydney, Crusaders away and the Chiefs at home.

It’s a tough schedule, but there’s no such thing as an easy game in Super Rugby Pacific. Rest assured there’s some great Rugby to come. Happy Easter everyone.