Fijians hurt after big thrashing

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Isoa Nasilasila trains with his teammates during the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua training session. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

The Swire Shipping Fijian Drua ignited hopes of a stellar year in Super Rugby Pacific after beating the mighty Crusaders 25-24 at Churchill Park.

The boys lost to the Reds 27-24, and there were hopes the side was going to record another upset against the injury-hit
Highlanders which narrowly beat the Drua 27-24 in Suva last year.

The Drua had a dramatic start as the hosts conceded the first try of the match.

That beauty sent the Fijian supporters into a frenzy as they rallied behind the boys.

However, the Highlanders scored five of their own in the first half on the way to a 57-24 win over the Drua.

After starting the season with three straight losses, the Highlanders have now won their past two matches and move up to mid-table with the Drua.

In his post-match interview with Sky Sports Highlanders captain Billy Harmon said: “It’s been a long time coming for us to string a whole performance together and really build those moments.

That’s what it’s all about this week, that execution to build our momentum and that’s
what we’ve done. We know the Drua, they love to play that loose game and it’s easy to get into that loose game when you’re against it.

“But we just wanted to stick to our system and just play our game.”

The Highlanders plan for the match was disrupted by injuries, including the loss of two players’ only hours before the start of play, and as hosts they had to dig even deeper into their playing resources when Jake Te Hiwi had to leave the field.

The Highlanders lost Shannon Frizell, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Josh Timu, Hugh Renton and Josh Dickson, but despite the disruptions, Aaron Smith orchestrated a nine-try win.

The Highlanders back-line was fizzing by the end of the contest, with confidence
clearly starting to return.

The Drua trailed the Highlanders 33-12, and fans expected the boys to come back into the game, but the boys lost focus, made numerous errors, and gifted the Highlanders try-scoring opportunities.

Consistency and intensity is a must if the Drua is to stand any chance of playing in the quarters. The boys showed glimpses of magic when they broke clear, but they fizzled in Dunedin against the hosts who came out firing and played to their strengths.

The Highlanders took the game in the forwards department and delivered a strong effort. Psychologically, perhaps, our boys got carried away with the fact that the Highlanders were nursing injuries to some big names.

This Saturday, the Drua must make a massive statement against the Rebels which beat the Reds 40-34. It’s not over yet, and I’m adamant the boys will bounce back.

We need to control play and not rush. The side must finish opportunities.

Fijian fans were hurt after that thumping, but at home the Drua should be a force to reckon with. As I conclude, I share the excitement of ardent Drua fan Ansh Lingam, who accompanied his dad Adishwar Lingam and grandfather Ram Lingam to Forsyth Barr Stadium, and walked home
happily with Drua star Frank Lomani’s rugby boots. That moment will be cherished by the nine-year old.

Rajnesh Lingam is a regular contributor to this newspaper and the views expressed in this article are his and not of The Fiji Times

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