Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Fijian Drua snatch last minute victory over Moana Pasifika in all-Pacific battle

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Photo: Fijian Drua FB
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

Mt Smart Stadium was the place to be Saturday afternoon, as fans of Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua packed out the stands.

An exchange of war cries at the start was the perfect way to set the tone for the all-Pacific battle.

And Moana couldn’t have dreamt of a more perfect start, with Abraham Pole dotting down for the first try in the second minute. The conversion  was unsuccessful putting Moana in front 5-0.

Some powerful line breaks by right wing Timoci Tavatavanawai helped spark Moana’s second try through prop Chris Apoua. Captain Christian Leali’ifano slotted the conversion, extending their lead to 12-0.

Then Fijian Drua finally found their way to the line after a long period of attack. Team captain Tevita Ikanivere crossed over to the Drua their first points of the match.

Flanker Michael Curry increased Moana’s lead with a try of his own, converted by Leali’ifano. But the Drua refused to back down, running in their second try through Joseva Tamani. Discipline proved to be a problem for Moana, with lock Samuel Slade receiving a yellow card midway through the first half.

Iosefo Masi of Fijian Drua levelled the scores 19-all scoring in the 35th minute. It was short lived as Moana’s Danny Toala crossed at the end of the first half for a 26-19 lead at the break.

Ikanivere opened up the second half with his second try of the match, reducing Moana’s lead to just two points. With scores at 24-26 to Moana, Pole snuck in for his second try to give Moana breathing space, however the conversion was unsuccessful leaving the scores at 24-31 to Moana.

Just as the win looked to be within Moana’s reach, Iosefo Masi crossed the line for Drua and the subsequent conversion made it 31 all.

As the clock wound down, the pressure began to mount on both teams with the game there for the taking. Leali’ifano managed to slot a penalty giving Moana a three point lead with only ten minutes to go.

Photo: Moana Pasifika FB

But Fijian Drua weren’t finished yet. With just two minutes left on the clock, debutante Taniela Rakuro scored in the corner to snatch the win right at the death. It was an emotional victory for the Fijians, who had to fight their way back in the game for most of the match.

As for Moana, it was not the result they hoped for.

“Credit to Drua for the great game today” Moana Pasifika coach Aaron Mauger said.

“We started well with the early tries. But I think we just couldn’t hold off Drua for the entire time”.

Team captain Leali’ifano echoed Mauger’s thoughts and narrowed down their loss to ill discipline including a yellow card.

“We spoke about it out there on the field. We wanted to work hard on our discipline, and I know the effort was there but just small decisions cost us the win”.

Fijian Drua Head Coach Mick Byrne was quick to praise his team especially captain Tevita Ikanivere on his leadership skills.

“That’s one of the most pleasing things for us this year is the belief that has been built in themselves to keep going and keep coming up,” Byrne said.

“They were really led well by my right hand man here (Ikanivere), and that just shows the character and bond that’s building in the team.”

Ikanivere added, “We obviously did not start the game well.

“But once we got to play our game and the style we are used to, we finally connected as a team.”

The captain also thanked the support from their fans and supporters across the world.

“We have the best fans in the competition,” Ikanivere said.

“Everywhere we go, we always have our Fijian community supporting us. It was a home game for Moana, but we definitely had the most fans here tonight.”

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