Drua beat Reds to maintain 8th place in Super Rugby, Brumbies edge Crusaders with late penalty try

SUVA, Fiji (AP) — Hooker and captain Tevita Ikanivere scored a try in each half as the Fijian Drua beat the 14-man Queensland Reds 28-19 in hot conditions in Suva on Saturday to hold on to eighth place and a playoff chance in Super Rugby Pacific.

The Reds were reduced to 14 men for 20 minutes in the second half when winger Suliasi Vunivalu received a second yellow card for a foot trip which was upgraded to a red card. Suva-born Vunivalu was handed a yellow card and conceded a penalty for a foot trip in the first half.

The Drua’s fifth win in six home matches this season kept them in eighth place after 13 of 15 regular-season rounds.

“We didn’t perform last week (in a 48-10 loss to the Western Force) but we still filled the stadium this week and that was for our fans and our families,” said Ikanivere who was a powerhouse for the Drua, leading them in carries.

“I challenged everyone this week to show up today. They showed up and I just scored the tries because I was there at the right time.”

Vunivalu took his first trip to the sin-bin in the third minute when Kitione Salawa slipped through a narrow gap in the Reds defense, stepped off his right foot and seemed to be heading in under the posts. As the last defender Vunivalu stretched out his leg to bring Salawa down, earning a yellow card and giving up a penalty try and 7-0 lead.

Ikanivere scored his first try in the eighth minute when the Drua recovered a kick behind the Reds defense and he was on hand to dive over.

Winger Floyd Aubrey scored a try on debut for the Reds, catching a cross-kick by flyhalf Leighton Creighton and diving over in the right corner. Then Creighton scored himself, taking advantage of a mis-match with a prop to break the defensive line and score.

The Reds closed within a point at 15-14 after 24 minutes but Keni Valetini kicked a long-distance penalty for the Drua to make the lead 18-14 at halftime.

“The fight and the bounce-back was really good and we fought our way back into it,” Reds co-captain Liam Wright said. “Probably the story of the game was the penalty and three points we conceded on halftime. That sort of ill-discipline crept in and chilled some of the opportunities we were creating in our attacking zone.”

Ikanivere scored his second try in the 45th minute at the end of an outstanding passage of play by the Drua. They first stole a Queensland lineout throw five meters from the Drua goalline. Valetini put the ball out near halfway and the Drua stole the lineout again to put themselves in Reds territory.

Selestino Ravutaumada made a long, stepping run and Ikanivere was on the end of the move to score, making the lead 25-14.

The Drua then defended their line resolutely until the 78th minute when replacement hooker George Blake scored for the Reds from a lineout drive.

In a tense finish, with the Drua holding a six-point lead, flyhalf Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula missed one penalty then nailed another to seal the game.

In a later match at Canberra, Australia, the ACT Brumbies secured a home playoff after a last-minute penalty try ensured a 31-24 win over the Christchurch, New Zealand-based Crusaders.

The game seemed set to end level until Quinten Strange conceded a penalty try in the last minute. The Crusaders lock intentionally knocked back a loose ball after Noah Lolesio’s side-line penalty goal attempt struck the upright.

The Brumbies' win kept them in third place, a point ahead of the fourth-place Chiefs. The Crusaders now have lost 10 games for the first time in a Super Rugby season and have little chance of reaching the playoffs.

In Auckland, the Blues defended first place for the first time this season when they beat the Dunedin-based Highlanders 47-13.

The Blues moved atop of the table last weekend when they beat the previously first-place Hurricanes.

Their first defense of top spot was tight until near halftime when they got away to a 21-13 lead. They then outscored the Highlanders 26-0 in the second half.

In Perth, flyhalf Ben Donaldson scored a try among 17 points for the Western Force who beat the New South Wales Waratahs 27-7 in a lackluster match.

The Force remain in ninth place, outside the playoffs zone, while the Waratahs are in last place.


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