Fijian Drua stun Crusaders with last-gasp win off penalty goal

Sat, Mar 11

The Fijian Drua have claimed a famous win over the Crusaders in Lautoka this afternoon with a penalty after the final hooter securing it for the hosts after they almost threw it away.

Marring Crusaders captain Scott Barrett's 100th Super Rugby game, the Drua earned their first-ever win over the Canterbury powerhouse with a 25-24 effort thanks to a Kemu Valetini penalty from the final play of the game.

After a tight first half saw the Crusaders carve out a 12-5 lead, the Fijian Drua came back firing on all cylinders in the second spell to put the reigning champions under a tonne of pressure.

Where in the past the Crusaders' defence has gotten them out of such situations, this afternoon it simply couldn't hold against the flare and physicality of the Drua.

Ilaisa Droasese finished off a fast string of phases with a dive for the line to level the scores 10 minutes into the second half before hte Drua started to take control of the game, forcing the Crusaders to play from inside their own half much like they did to the Blues in last year's Super Rugby Pacific final.

And very much like the Blues, the Crusaders - without playmaker Richie Mo'unga - were struggling for answers to escape their half.

Eventually, that saw Joseva Tamani put the Drua in front as he flew in to score in the right corner, sending a wave of euphoria through Fiji as the flags and screams from their faithful came out.

The Drua didn't let the moment get to them though, going right back to what was working and pinning the Crusaders down in the their own half.

Sam Whitelock is tackled by the Fijian Drua.

That led to another crucial turnover and with it some fine work by Kitione Salawa, who bumped off a tackler before offloading to debutant Eroni Sau who pushed off two tacklers of his own to dive in to the left corner.

Down 22-10 with 10 minutes left, the Crusaders rolled the dice to get back into the contest and opted for a short restart to try and get forward ball in the Drua's half.

The gamble paid off with Sevu Reece scoring minutes later to cut the deficit to five with seven minutes left.

The Drua's desperation started to get the better of them with an early penalty off their restart allowing the Crusaders to once again launch another attack from inside the Fijian half.

Another penalty gave them the platform they wanted and from a 5m lineout, Ioane Moananu went over to tie up the match and silence the Lautoka crowd.

With pressure on starting first-five Fergus Burke to give his side the lead from the right sideline, the 23-year-old stepped up to the occasion and slotted the difficult kick.

That saw the Crusaders take a stunning 24-22 lead with 90 seconds left in the contest.

But this thriller had one twist left.

The Crusaders knocked the restart on to hand the Drua the ball 25m out from their line with a scrum in the middle of the field giving them a superb attacking platform.

The Crusaders defence held firm for a minute but their discipline came undone with a penalty for hands in the ruck from right in front.

Valetini stepped up and the rest is history.

"It was unreal today, it was epic," said Drua captain Tevita Ikanivere.

"The boys came out in the second half firing and we did the job, we got the win. We had the belief we could do it and we came and defeated a great Crusaders team.

"And what better way to do it than in front of our home crowd."

It means the Crusaders now have just one win from their opening three games to start the season with a rematch of last year's final against the Blues at Eden Park awaiting them next week.

"I guess that's not what we wanted, but we got what we expected, that's a tough Drua side playing at home," said Crusaders captain Scott Barrett, who was playing his 100th Super Rugby match.

"We saw how dangerous they were, they capitalised with their skill, running play. Congratulations to the Drua on their win."

Fijian Drua 25 (Iosefo Masi, Joseva Tamani, Eroni Sau, Ilaisa Droasese tries; Teti Tela con, Kemu Valetini pen)

Crusaders 24 (Quentin MacDonald 2, Ioane Moananu, Sevu Reece tries; Fergus Burke 2 con)

HT: 5-12


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