The Highlanders has defeated the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua 27-24 in a Super Rugby Pacific thriller today at ANZ Stadium in Suva.
The Drua struck first by scoring within five minutes of the game and the first time they’ve done it in the competition.
After some quick passes from Apisalome Vota to Kalaveti Ravouvou saw the ball land in the hands of Frank Lomani who then left the Highlanders fullback wondering following a deadly left foot step before running away to dot down under the posts.
The conversion from Teti Tela, put the Drua in front 7-nil.
The Highlanders started to apply pressure inside the Drua territory and it wasn’t long before Sam Gilbert was over in the corner, with Mitch Hunt converting from the sideline for a 7-all scoreline.
Highlanders captain Aaron Smith says the team stuck to their structure despite the onslaught from the Drua.
“We knew the Drua would be very dangerous as they’re able to score out of nothing and they got a couple of early one. We stuck to our game plan, I’m really proud and it was never going to be easy over here and I’m just beyond proud of our boys.”
It was quiet for the next few minutes, but another brilliant counterattack from the Drua led to a turnover at the ruck before the ‘Bossman’ Vinaya Habosi ran home 70 meters for a try which had the more than 14,000 fans on their feet.
Trailing 14-7, the Landers took advantage of the penalty deep in the Drua half, Hunt giving them another three points.
Living up to his nickname, Habosi made another break just to be brought down five meters from the tryline, the Drua recycled the ball and Kalaveti Ravouvou dived over for the third try after following through a little kick from Tela.
Highlanders number eight Marino Mikaele-Tu’u broke through the Drua defence to dive in under the post, with Hunt’s conversion, the Highlanders were back in the game, 21-17 at halftime.
Despite going down, Drua skipper Ratu Meli Derenalagi says the players gave their hearts out today.
“We know that the Highlanders are going to come at us but I’m so proud of the boys for the effort. They tried to stay competitive and play 80 minutes rugby. I want the boys for giving their all in today’s game.”
The Highlanders started off strong on the second half, with a penalty to the Highlanders right in front of the posts, giving a 20-24 deficit.
Backed by their lineout drive, substitute Rhys Marshall put in some finishing touches on the maul for the Highlanders’ to score and give them their first lead of the game.
There were a few changes to both teams, James Lentjes coming in for Christian Lio-Willie, while the Drua youngster Simione Kuruvoli comes in for Lomani, and Samuela Tawake coming in with Saulo.
The Highlanders maintained their composure, while the Drua made several attempts at the tryline but couldn’t finish it off.
— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) April 30, 2022