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Drua shines while Moana Pasifika flounders

Fijian Drua secured their first Super Rugby Pacific win against a hapless Melbourne Rebels, but fellow newcomers Moana Pasifika were beaten on their belated debut at the weekend as powerhouse Canterbury Crusaders surged to the top of the table.

The Australia-based Drua lost their opening two games heavily, leaking 82 points, but they showed not just backbone, but also flair, in a come-from-behind 31-26 win at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

Onisi Ratave, Vilive Miramira and Apisalome Vota all scored tries with four second-half penalties from Teti Tela helping secure the historic win.

It compounded a horror start to the season from the Rebels, who were missing a host of players through injury and suspension as they suffered a third straight loss.

“To say it’s unlucky would be disrespectful to the Drua, they played a better game than us in almost every facet,” said Rebels skipper Michael Wells. “We’ll have to have a good hard look at ourselves.”

While Drua got off the mark, New Zealand-based Moana Pasifika, whose opening two games were postponed due to Covid-19, slumped 33-12 against the mighty Crusaders.

fijian drua rugby pacific
Fijian Drua secured their first Super Rugby Pacific win against a hapless Melbourne Rebels. Picture: Twitter

Despite the defeat, the new outfit, skippered by Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu, impressed with some bruising defence and slick ball movement to give the 12-time champions a run for their money.

They jumped to a surprise lead through a Solomone Funaki try, but ultimately the Crusaders’ experience paid dividends as they battled to a five tries to two win at an empty Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin with All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor bagging a brace.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson admitted it was “real, real tough” and Kepu said his team took a lot of confidence from their performance.

“It was about trusting ourselves and backing each other and the boys showed a lot of courage, lot of passion,” he told reporters.

“We can take a lot of confidence out of that (because) they’ve set the bar for years.”

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The win pushed the Crusaders one bonus point clear at the top of the 12-team table after round three, with the ACT Brumbies and Queensland Reds the only other unbeaten sides.

‘Game-by-game’

The Brumbies, bolstered by a powerhouse pack featuring Wallabies James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a, Allan Alaalatoa, saw off a dogged NSW Waratahs 27-20 at Canberra Stadium, racing to a 10-0 lead and then 24-6.

But the ‘Tahs gallantly fought back in the rain to earn a losing bonus point.

Skipper Alaalatoa said his team was building nicely for the season.

“The most important thing is just taking it game by game, definitely celebrating this win and then moving forward,” he said.

The Reds also kept their unbeaten streak intact with an impressive 29-16 win over Western Force in Perth, driven by star playmaker James O’Connor who played a hand in all four tries and slotted nine points with the boot.

It culminated a chaotic week for the Reds who could only train once in the lead-up to the game due to devastating floods in Queensland then endured a 14-hour flight to Perth due to delays and an unplanned stopover.

Elsewhere, the Auckland Blues edged past the Waikato Chiefs 24-22, but only just with Chiefs’ substitute Bryn Gatland missing a long-range penalty at the death to win the game at Eden Park.

Wellington Hurricanes, meanwhile, earned their second win of the season with a 21-14 victory over the Otago Highlanders, who, like the Rebels, have lost all three games so far.

© Agence France-Presse

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