[Source: Super Rugby/ Twitter]
The Highlanders never looked like a side that’s struggling with their roster at the moment after demolishing the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua 57-24 in their Shop N Save Super Rugby Pacific clash in Dunedin today.
There’re more than 10 players still out injured for the Highlanders including Shannon Frizell, Andrew Makalio and Fabian Holland.
It was nothing compared to their meeting at the HFC Bank Stadium last year which the Drua lost 27-24.
By halftime seven tries have been scored with five going to the Otago-based side.
Captain Meli Derenalagi says the Drua were simply not good enough today.
“We didn’t stick to what we planned, we dropped from our system they outplayed us but they were playing today like something else, for us we didn’t stick to our game plan, that’s what cost us.”
Highlanders skipper Bill Harmon says they had to start somewhere.
“It’s a long time coming for us you know to string a whole performance together and just really build those moments and that’s what is all about this week, it’s our execution to build that momentum and that’s what we’ve done.”
Our Drua struck first in the 13th minute when Apisalome Vota sliced through the Highlanders defence before releasing the ball to Frank Lomani five meters who dived over to score.
— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) March 25, 2023
The lead was cancelled by the hosts when prop Jermaine Ainsley scored a try off the back of a Lomani mistake.
All Blacks prop Ethan de Groot extended his team’s lead with a converted try after the Highlanders turned defence into attack inside the Drua territory following some brilliant work at the breakdown by open-side flanker and captain Billy Harmon.
Argentina winger Martin Bogado and fullback Sam Gilbert scored two successive tries for the home side for a 28-7 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
The Drua managed to get some possession before Selesitino Ravutaumada broke through and put Taniela Rakuro into the corner for the second try with Lomani missing the conversion.
Highlanders flyhalf Mitch Hunt had the last say in the first 40 minutes with their fifth try for a 33-12 lead at the break.
All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith showed his class with quality balls all afternoon to second receivers.
Smith sneaked in for their sixth try shortly after the break before Jonah Lowe added another.
The Drua never gave up the fight and slowly got their act together, putting together some phases and Tevita Ikanivere rewarded for his effort with their third try and Lomani getting his second later.
It was another step up by the Highlanders after getting their first win against the Force last week as they had another two tries in the last quarter.
The Drua will face the Rebels at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva next weekend.