Fijian Drua edge Crusaders in huge Super Rugby Pacific upset
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Fijian Drua have pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of Super Rugby, beating the defending champion Crusaders 25-24 with a penalty two minutes after the fulltime siren on Saturday.
In a thrilling finish to a match played in searing heat in Lautoka, Fiji, the Drua rallied from 12-5 down at halftime to lead 22-12, then saw the Crusaders come back to take a 24-22 lead with a converted try in the 78th minute
With the last play of the game the Drua won a penalty in front of the Crusaders’ posts and Kemu Valetini, the brother of Wallabies player Rob Valetini, took on massive responsibility to kick the winning penalty on debut.
Churchill Park erupted when the kick from close range passed over the crossbar to clinch the most significant win in the Drua’s history. They now are 2-1 and have moved up to fourth place with the third round still in progress while the Christchurch-based Crusaders, now 1-2, have dropped to seventh in this year's edition of Super Rugby Pacific.
“We prepared for this week from Monday. We had the belief we could do it,” Drua captain Tevita Ikanivere said. “We came out and defeated a great Crusaders team. What better way to do it than on our home turf?”
The Crusaders won the equivalent fixture last year 61-3. This year, the Crusaders named a weakened team as head coach Scott Robertson was forced to rest most of his All Blacks.
The Crusaders still managed to dominate at set pieces in the first half and scored two tries to hooker Quentin MacDonald from lineout drives. The Drua always were keen to play the match at pace and among the backs and pulled on try back before halftime through Iosefo Masi.
The Crusaders forwards appeared to wilt in the heat in the second half and the Drua pack became more assertive.
Ilaisa Droasese scored a try from phase play in the 50th minute, then scrumhalf Frank Domani switched an openside play to the blindside in the 61st minute and Joseva Tamani scored. That put the Drua in front for the first time and they stretched their lead to 10 points with a try to Eroni Sau.
The Crusaders rallied strongly with two tries and Fergus Burke converted the second from the sideline to put his team ahead 24-12 before Valetini sealed the match with his penalty.
“We have to play 80 minutes and for periods there we just turned our back and they showed how dangerous they are and capitalized with their skill,” said Crusaders captain Scott Barrett, who played his 100th Super Rugby match.
Later, the Auckland-based Blues beat the Wellington-based Hurricanes 25-19 in a dull and scrappy match in Wellington and the ACT Brumbies beat the Queensland Reds 23-17.
The Blues are packed with All Blacks and showed the weaknesses of the All Blacks: lack of discipline, too many simple errors at key moments and poor kicking by its playmakers.
The Blues won the territorial battle but the Hurricanes defended well. Tries to Caleb Clarke and Hoskins Sotutu just before halftime proved crucial in the Blues' win.
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