Rakuro scores winner, double for Masi and Ikanivere

February 25, 2023 8:27 pm

Iosefo Masi on his way to score one of his tries [Source: Super Rugby Pacific/Twitter]

Debutant Taniela Rakuro scored the winning try for the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua in the Shop N Save Super Rugby Pacific clash against Moana Pasifika.

The 23-year-old from Vusama, Malomalo, Nadroga who was scared on his first flight buried the demons with a try in the 78th minute to give the Drua a 36-34 win.

It was the worst possible start for the Drua when the first kick didn’t go 10 meters as a result Moana Pasifika prop Abraham Pole was able to power his way over the line for the first try just after two minutes following some show of strength by center Levi Aumua.

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Fijian Timoci Tavatavanawai set up Moana’s second try to prop Chris Apoua in the eighth minute as the Drua were starved off possession.

Tavatavanawai was a handful for the opposition all afternoon and at times made defenders look ordinary.

Captain Tevita Ikanivere led from the front when the side had some possession and the skipper opted for tap and go instead of taking the three points when they were given successive penalties and the former QVS student struck in the 19th minute with their first try.

Ikanivere says they held on until the last minute to win the game and that makes it special.

“We took it personally in the first half, starting the game Moana was running through us and we talked about it in the preview that they were just coming through the front door. I think we weren’t there physically in the first 15 minutes but when we turned the pace up, we got the better of them.”

Moana Pasifika sensed that the Fijians were still unsettled in their defense and they exposed it with some strong carries before blindside flanker Mike Curry scored their third try for a 19-5 lead.

However, the Drua replied in the 28th minute through Joseva Tamani who crashed over between the sticks from a tap penalty.

It was a typical Pacific clash with free flowing rugby on show and the Drua managed to score again when a well-orchestrated move paid off for a try on debut for center Iosefo Masi to lock the game up at 19-all.

The Olympic gold-medalist says having Kalaveti Ravouvou as his partner at centre boosted his confidence.

“He is one of the inside centre that played well last season and I love playing on each side so he gives me confidence on my game.”

The two tries were scored when Moana Pasifika lock Samuel Slade was spending 10 minutes on the sideline for repeated infringements.

It was entertaining last quarter and the Drua tried to mount another attack but a handling error saw Moana capitalized with a counter attack that enabled inside center Danny Toala to outrun prop Emosi Tuqiri to score.

The Aaron Mauger coached side led the Fijians 26-19 at halftime.

Just five minutes into the second spell, captain Ikanivere sliced through the defense to score one of the best tries of round one.

Teti Tela missed the conversion but the hosts extended their lead when Pole scored his second.

Iosefo Masi never looked like someone playing Super Rugby for the first time and had some good carries in the 13 jersey.

Masi ran right through the defense from a Selesitino Ravutaumada offload with Caleb Muntz adding another two points for a 31-all scoreline with 22 minutes to play.

Drua coach Mick Byrne was proud of his men’s efforts.

“We know we’ve always said to our boys ion the second year we just want them to trust themselves. I think they’re just waiting for the game to start and then they get into it. Than young Taniela comes on , on Tuesday he was at the academy, on Wednesday he is on the bench and then he comes on to score the winning try, that’s just awesome.”

Moana added a penalty to lead 34-31 before debutant Rakuro marked his first game with the winning try.