Chiefs hold off Fijian Drua in Super Rugby thriller
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Chiefs have clung to a rapidly diminishing lead to beat the Fijian Drua 35-34 in a thrilling match which allowed them to clinch a home quarterfinal in Super Rugby Pacific.
The last match of the Drua’s inaugural season in Super Rugby was played in front of a packed house at Churchill Park in Lautoka, Fiji’s second city. Every inch of the ground was filled and spectators occupied every tree or other vantage point overlooking the ground to see what turned out to be one of the most compelling matches of the season.
The Chiefs led 35-13 with only 14 minutes remaining and they must have felt the job was done in hot, humid and sapping conditions.
The Drua launched an extraordinary comeback, scoring three tries in the last 10 minutes to make the match a cliff-hanger. The hosts attacked from everywhere and the weary Chiefs only just managed to hang on to the vital points they needed to ensure a finish among the top four teams.
“I thought we’d played our one and only get out of jail free card against the Rebels a couple of weeks ago but it turns out we’ve got two,” Chiefs captain Brad Weber said.
“We just feel a sense of relief more than anything.
“Man, hats off to the Drua. That last 10 or 15 minutes they were just unbelievable. I haven’t seen tries scored like that in my whole career. It just feels incredibly lucky to be able to win.”
Weber created a try for wing Emoni Narawa as the Chiefs led 21-7 at half-time. Prop Angus Ta’avao and flyhalf Bryn Gatland scored tries within the first 20 minutes and Weber’s touchdown just before the break gave the Chiefs a comfortable advantage.
The Chiefs went further ahead with a second try to Fiji-born Narawa and looked to have the game under control when they were awarded a penalty try at a scrum in the 66th minute, making the lead 22 points.
Roared on by the crowd, the Drua refused to be denied. They hit back first with a magnificent counter-attacking try to Kalaveti Ravouvou and added another five minutes later to Apisalome Vota.
The stadium erupted when replacement prop Timoci Sauvoli scored under the posts with a minute on the clock and the conversion cut the Chiefs’ lead to a single point.
The Drua gained a final possession but the match ended before they could make their rally a winning one.
For Fijian Drua:
Tries: Vota 2, Ravouvou, Sauvoli
Cons: Tela 4
Pens: Tela 2
Tries: Ta’avao, Gatland, Narawa 2, Penalty Try
Cons: Gatland: 4
Fijian Drua: 15 Kitione Taliga, 14 Ilaisa Droasese, 13 Apisalome Vota, 12 Kalaveti Ravouvou, 11 Vinaya Habosi, 10 Teti Tela, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Nemani Nagusa (captain), 7 Rusiate Nasove, 6 Joseva Tamani, 5 Viliame Rarasea, 4 Isoa Nasilasila, 3 Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, 2 Zuriel Togiatama, 1 Haereiti Hetet.
Replacements: 16 Tevita Ikanivere, 17 Timoci Sauvoli, 18 Manasa Saulo, 19 Chris Minimbi, 20 Mesulame Dolokoto, 21 Peni Matawalu, 22 Caleb Muntz, 23 Onisi Ratave.
Chiefs: 15 Kaleb Trask, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Rameka Poihipi, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Alex Nankivell, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Luke Jacobson, 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Naitoa Ah Khoi, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Cortez Ratima, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Jonah Lowe.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: Angus Mabey, Dan Waenga
TMO: Glenn Newman