The Fiji Drua shock the Crusaders with historic victories, analysis, points and highlights

For years, Fiji and the surrounding island nations have been exploited. That will still happen given the financial wealth overseas, but now is the time to show respect.

After two heartbreaking home losses to the Highlanders (24-27) and the Chiefs (34-35) last year, Fiji Drua shocked the Champion Crusaders by 25-24 in their first home game of the season at Churchill Park.

The Drua looked like they had botched the match after conceding two counter attempts in the final seven minutes of the game, but an injury-time penalty against Kemu Valetini – brother of Wallabies star Rob – saw the Drua do just that Stole the game and the pack sent crowds into a frenzy.

“First and foremost, glory and honor back to God. Without him we are nothing, but with him we can do anything,” said Drua Hooker and Captain Tevita Ikanivere.

“Secondly, it was unreal for the crowd today and today’s game was happy. The guys came out firing in the second half and we did the job and got the win.

“We have been preparing this week from Monday. We had faith that we could do it and we came and beat a great Crusaders team that has won six years in a row and what better way to do that than to do it in front of our home crowd.”

Salestino Ravutaumada in action against the Crusaders at Churchill Park on March 11, 2023 in Lautoka, Fiji. Photo: Pita Simpson/Getty Images

The win shows that anything is possible for Fiji rugby.

Sure, the Crusaders lacked some starting talent, but given that the Drua are, more than anything, a development team and have only existed in Super Rugby for less than two years, it’s a huge statement of their potential.

Now the bosses of SANZAAR, including New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia, should get off their high horse and add Fiji and Japan to the Rugby Championship, not in 2026 or later, but next year, 2024. Anything else is a farce and financially selfish Decision.

Is it any surprise that the only crowd at Super Rugby this year was Fiji? Of course not. They are the beating heart of Super Rugby and the Southern Hemisphere must embrace their involvement.

Crusaders captain Scott Barrett was shocked in his 100th super rugby match, describing the milestone as “bittersweet”.

“I think that wasn’t what we wanted, but we got what we expected, which was a rough ride and a home game,” said Barrett.

“I think (where we fell short) was playing 80 minutes and making mistakes as a result. We turned around and saw how dangerous they were with their skill and running game.”


All Blacks and Crusaders star Sam Whitelock meets the Fijian Drua Defense in Lautoka, Fiji. Photo: Pita Simpson/Getty Images

Despite resting some of their stars, including All Blacks regulars Codie Taylor and Richie Mo’unga, the Crusaders flexed their muscles early on by taking advantage of the Fijians at rolling maul.

Veteran hooker Quentin MacDonald helped the visitors take a 12-0 lead at the end of two rolling maul attempts.

But it was all home team for the next 60 minutes as the Crusaders dropped passes, failed to maintain possession and fell from tackles while the Drua looked at home in the energy-sapping heat.

The Crusaders took a 12-5 lead at half-time after Iosefo Masi tried on the fringes, but coach Mick Byrne would have had his hair pulled on the missed opportunities.

The team of the former assistant coach of the Wallabies and All Blacks dropped two balls with the tryline in sight in the lead by halftime.

Luckily, the passes started to stick and the Drua kept pushing forward in the second half.

Ilaisa Droasese scored in the 49th minute to level the Drua before Joseva Tamani and Eroni Sau struck over the goal to put the home side 10 points ahead.

Fijian-born All Black Sevu Reece looked like he would spoil the party as he sidelined to give the Crusaders a late taste of a comeback.

Ecstasy looked set to turn to agony as Ioane crossed Moananu from a rolling maul in the final minutes. Fergus Blake’s conversion from the outside gave the Crusaders a two-point lead.

But the Crusaders failed to kick-restart and the Fijians were given another chance.

The home side played with advantage and attempted to set up a field goal, but Valetini proved he was the hero as he pressed three points from up front to seal an exceptional and memorable win.

The win jumps the Drua ahead of the Crusaders in Super Rugby standings after defeating Moana Pasifika in their opening match.

Barrett said his team was dealing with the loss on the chin.

“I don’t think we can apologize, we must tip our hats to the Fiji Drua. They were outstanding today and deserved this win,” he said. The Fiji Drua shock the Crusaders with historic victories, analysis, points and highlights

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