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Drua Back Stronger

Defending champions Fiji Airways Fijian Drua finally notched their first Australia National Championship win of the season, breaking the shackles with a 11-try performance that keeps their finals hopes alive.
22 Sep 2019 11:00
Drua Back Stronger
Fiji Airways Fijian Drua No.8 Johnny Dyer scores a try against Sydney at Churchill Park, Lautoka on September 21, 2019. Photo: Waisea Nasokia

After two draws and a home loss in their first three rounds, the Drua looked to have lost some of the sparkle that took them to the 2018 title.

But just an hour before the Flying Fijians kicked off their World Cup campaign against the Wallabies, their second-tier side showed they were not ready to throw away their finals chances.

The Drua headed into Round 4 in seventh position in the eight-team competition and needing to win at least three of their final four games to make the semis.

And few would bet against them if they are able to maintain the form they showed this afternoon.

The Drua had eight individual try scorers in the drubbing and while there was some unstructured play, there was plenty to like from their back three and barnstorming no.8 Johnny Dyer.

After their upset of Queensland Country last week though, Sydney would be bitterly disappointed with their performance.

While they scored five tries, three came from rolling mauls and the other two were virtual gifts from the home side – a kick charge down and a loose carry that were both pounced on by captain Lalakai Foketi.

Sydney hooker Ed Craig opened the scoring before the Drua hit back with the next two scores to take a 14-7 lead before Craig hit back with his second try of the match in the 17th minute.

Harrison’s missed conversion left the visitors trailing 14-12 though and the Drua increased their lead after a massive show of strength from Dyer, who carried three Sydney defenders over the line.

In a first half dominated by the hookers, it was Drua rake Tevita Ikanivere who started the movement that led to Dyer’s try with a massive break.

The Drua were looking dominant but they played a smart game, taking the points on offer when they won a penalty in the 35th minute with EneleTikotani slotting it through the posts.

But an attempted chip and chase from first five-eighth Caleb Muntz a few phases after the restart proved disastrous, with the ball charged down and Sydney captain Lalakai Foketi racing over to score.

Will Harrison’s conversion helped them claw back to within five points, 24-19, at the break.

The Drua are well known for their flair but their style comes with risk and Sydney capitalised just after halftime, regaining the lead after Foketi swooped on a loose ball from a pushed pass to race away and score a simple try.

It did not temper the Drua’s game though, with the home side racing in another two tries – to Dyer and Eremasi Radrodro – in the 10 minutes after the break.

Sydney hung in though and kept their chances alive when they were next to score, through flanker Charlie Gamble.

But it was all the Drua from there, the Fijians racing in another six tries to finish as convincing winners.

Radrodro touched down for his second of the afternoon to put the Drua up 45-29 after the conversion.

Dyer was in the thick of things again when he bullock-ed his way through the Sydney defence before offloading to winger Jiuta Wainiqolo, who raced over to score in the corner.

He notched a second just three minutes later, before Kurumudu, Tikotani and Viriviri scored in a frantic final 10 minutes.

Fullback Tikotani finished with a personal haul of 26 points from a try, penalty and nine conversions in an outstanding display.

SCORES: Fijian Drua 76, Tries: Matawalu, Nasova, Dyer 2, Radrodro 2, Wainiqolo 2, Kurumudu, Tikotani, Viriviri, Cons: Tikotani 9; Pens: Tikotani.

Sydney 29: Tries: Craig 2, Foketi 2, Gamble; Cons: Harrison 2.

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua

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