3 months ago

Match Reports

Fijiana on top of the table while men take lessons away from loss to Waratahs.

The merciless quashing of a 20-game Waratahs Super W winning streak by the Fijiana was the standout performance of the first ever Drua home Super Rugby Pacific matches – a women’s and men’s double header - at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday night.

It was a win to the women 29-10 and a 24-point loss to the men (38-14) in front of a boisterous 2000-plus crowd in superb conditions for rugby on the Gold Coast.

The Rooster Chicken Fijiana Drua and the Wallaroos-laden Waratahs women went into their Super W clash both undefeated in the 2022 competition to set up a tantalising top-of-the-table, winner-take-all clash.

With a 20-game winning streak under their belts, a last round 57-point drubbing of the Melbourne Rebels and a restful bye last week, the Waratahs had been expected to dominate against the competition’s newest expansion side.

But the Fijiana took no notice of the script, blasting out of the blocks with their flashy footwork and solid ball carrying proving too much for the Waratahs as they took a 12-point (17-5) lead into the long break.

It was a momentum that continued in the second stanza with Fijiana’s centre runs and offloading too much for their rattled opposition, the home team prevailing 29-10.

It was an historic result, but one that failed to rub off on their male counterparts who were out to avenge a stinging 40-10 loss in their historic first round encounter – their first ever Super Rugby Pacific match - against the Waratahs in early February.

A flashy try out wide by Waratahs winger Dylan Pietsch at 16-minutes set the tone for a match that deprived the Drua the chance to score within the first 20 minutes for the seventh match in a row.

With head coach Mick Byrne away after recording a positive Covid test during the week, it was up to assistant coach, Brad Harris to take charge and rue another slow start.

We don’t seem to be learning how to start a game at this level

Assistant Coach

Brad Harris

He continued:

“Our ball security let us down in the first 20 minutes four or five times.

“We turned the ball over and didn’t allow ourselves to build the game that we wanted to build and try to apply some pressure to the Waratahs.

“But that’s a pretty consistent theme now over the past number of weeks so we need to have another look at that this week, ask some questions of ourselves and learn to start the game a lot better,” he said.

With yellow and red cards seeing only 13 Drua players on the field at one stage, Harris was philosophical.

“We can’t fault the effort of the boys, it is really there every week and we’re finishing the game strongly.

“I think that part of our learning and our growth is that when pressure comes onto the game we need to solve problems together, not individually, so I think that’s something that the boys are learning as they get more experience at this level and I think that’s a big step up for a lot of them,” he said.

Meanwhile, with captain Nemani Nagusa warming the bench, the on-field shot calling fell to flyhalf Teti Tela.

“Whether you’re one man down, especially two men down, you’re always going to have leaks somewhere and a red card and a yellow is always tough,” Tela said.

“But the boys really dug deep tonight and I’m proud that we played the match right to the end.

“The beauty of rugby is that we always get another week to work on fixing our mistakes, and that’s what we’ll be doing in our new camp on the Gold Coast this week,” he said.

Tela said there is plenty of self-belief in the squad with everyone clear in what improvements need to be made.

“We’ve always got that belief that we can score if we want to score.

“It comes down to the basics of catching the ball, the knock ons, the silly little mistakes, the basic mistakes that are costing us the game,” he said.

Drua tries to Vinaya Hobosi (23-minute mark) and Rusiate Nasove (55-minute mark) gave the Cbus crowd something to cheer as the team stayed on their feet and kept pushing forward with pace right to the final siren.

The Waratahs, who were searching for back-to-back wins for the first time since March 2019, were buoyed by the on-field presence of a fresh and firing Wallabies captain Michael Hooper who returned to the forward pack after a recent foot injury to score a trademark try with his second touch of the ball at the 51-minute mark.

Waratahs captain Jed Holloway said Hooper’s presence on the field provided a lift to the team.

“It’s great having him and his experience out there in matches like this,” he said.

Hollloway also praised the Drua’s physicality.

“You’re not going to run over this team, that’s for sure. If you think you can take them one-on-one, you’re going to come off second best every time,” he said.