In the first match of the 2018 NRC Season in Ratu, the Fijians showed all their class.
In front of a decent crowd, the two teams tried hard to offer some entertainment, but their efforts were hampered by handling errors. Both teams could not find the decisive opening in-between the opponent’s defensive line.
The first half hour passed with a constant litany of errors and ill-discipline that was painful to watch, but in a flash the match changed and the match got finally interesting.
Despite a line-up filled with Super Rugby players the Rising weren’t able to contain the flare of the Fijians who scored a deserved first win go the 2018 NRC season.
Unconventionally for a high scoring competition like the NRC, spectators had to wait long to see the first points on the scoreboard.
It was Tom English to cross the chalk for the first time at the 28th minute. After a solid Rising scrum, Goddard served King who first threw a dummy and then a very long pass to the unmarked winger who was able to score untouched. Goddard with the conversion for the 0-7.
The wait for scoring was over, with the home team getting one back right away thanks to a fine movement of winger Kurumudu who scored in front of the posts. Fullback Waqatabu converted from the front for the equaliser.
A fantastic combination from the halves give the Duran the lead 4 minutes later, flyhalf Veitokani got possession in his 22 meters after a spilled pass and danced through the Rising’s backline, combined with scum half Lomani and got the ball back to dive over the line for a fine score. Waqatabu converted again for the 14-7 lead with 3 minutes to play.
The Rising had the last word in the first half, they kicked a penalty into the corner but spoiled it again with an overthrown pass.
Halftime Score: Fijian Drua – Melbourne Rising 14 – 7
The Drua opened the scores in the second half after just 2 minutes of play thanks to Waqatabu. The fullback ending a series of forwards’ phases scoring in the right corner. Waqatabu wan’t able to convert its own try.
Finally, Sefa Naivalu, a player who came to glory thanks to the NRC, sparked some light on the Rising wing, gaining 70 meters in the opponent’s territory, but another handling error nullified their efforts.
The pressure mounted on the Fijian defence and Marsters scored after a high ball spilled by Naivalu. With Goddard off the field, King attempted conversion went wide.
Again the answer from the Drua was quick and fast. Substitute scum half Raidre scored after a nice line break in the middle by centre Reece. Waqatabu converted at the 20th minute.
The floodgates opened in pure Fijian style with a team try that saw Dyer under the posts after 7 passes between forwards and centres. Fullback Waqatabu with his fourth successful conversion made for a 21 points lead for the Drua.
Precious minutes passed with both teams reverting to their habit of spoiling possession from mishandling, and the Drua saw their first victory of the season near.
Hometown hero Rising player Kitioni Ratu gifted a try to the Drua after he hesitated to kick away the ball from his own try area, Veitokani charged him down and winger Daveta scored the opportunistic try.
The Rising had the last say of the match after the hooter with English’s second personal score. The winger, who opened the scores very late in the first half was again left alone to score in the corner.
Final Score: Fijian Drua – Melbourne Rising 40 – 17
THE GAME CHANGER
With the game locked nil-all for most of the first half, it was Tom English’s try to demonstrate that it was allowed to cross the chalk. Unfortunately for the Rising, the hosts were capable to do so more regularly.
THE GAGR MOTM
Plenty of individual piece of brilliance in the Fijian Drua team, but our nomination goes to scrum half Frank Lomani, capable to glue together the powerful forwards and the speedy backs
OZ BAABAA WATCH
Not so many players eligible for the Oz Barbarians in this match, with most of the Rising players already part of the Super Rugby contingent. Melbourne Harlequins Kemu Valetini showed some goods in the 20 minutes he had on the field.
Crowd: 7,000 (approx)
SCORES & SCORERS
CARDS & CITINGS