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Friday Apr 19, 2024

Hurricanes cause a storm in Fiji with 13 men

The Dura have won three out of four games against the New Zealand talent so far this season and were looking to remain unbeaten on Fijian soil. The in-form Hurricanes came into this match leading the Super Rugby Pacific table on 32 points, ahead of a Blues side hot on their heels in 2nd place, just five points behind.

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A sellout HFC bank stadium in Suva proved to be a great test for both teams, with the match starting as furiously as expected. After six minutes Billy Proctor dove over the line thanks to early attacking pressure from the Hurricanes The Drua were quick to respond with 19-year-old Isikeli Rabitu making the most of his first start in the Drua 10 shirt, by going over for a try in the ninth minute.

The match continued in the dramatic fashion it had started, with Drua’s fullback Ilasia Droasese making a mistake on his own five-metre line to give the Hurricanes an attacking scrum. Hurricanes Devan Flanders made the most of the opportunity after a dominant carry off the base of the scrum, making the score to 14-7 to the Canes.

The Drua struggled to build attacking momentum thanks to Hurricanes unbending defence which kept the Drua at bay. The defensive pressure from the Hurricanes forced a cacophony of mistakes from the Drua over the next 20 minutes, eventually leading to the Hurricanes taking their opportunity. After some great attacking phases, TJ Perenara linked up with Leinster bound Jordie Barrett to go over for another try, extending the visitors lead.

With the Hurricanes leading 21-7, their attack continued and the momentum changed, the Hurricanes became the dominant side for the final eight minutes of the first half. James O’Reilly went over the line off the back of a maul with the Hurricanes heading into half time leading 28-7 in Suva.

SUVA, FIJI – APRIL 19: Isikeli Rabitu of the Fijian Drua runs with the ball during the round nine Super Rugby Pacific match between Fijian Drua and Hurricanes at HFC Stadium, on April 19, 2024, in Suva, Fiji. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

The crowd was enjoying the rugby, singing and dancing to sweet Caroline during the pauses in play, and within a few moments of James O’Reilly going over the line you could hear a pin drop within this sellout crowd of 15,000 people. This reflected the momentum and how quickly it changed into the Hurricanes favour in Suva.

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At half time Drua’s assistant coach Glen Jackson said in an interview “we need to keep hold of the ball” and “just listen to crowd” to help energise this Drua team. This was a true reflection of the first half.

The Drua come out firing in the second half, and after a penalty from the Canes put the Drua within striking distance of the Hurricanes try line, a dominant maul from the lineout out proved too much for the Hurricanes. The Dura went over the line to make the score 12-28 to the Canes – hyping the home crowd as they went.

SUVA, FIJI – APRIL 19: Isikeli Rabitu of the Fijian Drua scores a try during the round nine Super Rugby Pacific match between Fijian Drua and Hurricanes at HFC Stadium, on April 19, 2024, in Suva, Fiji. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

With the penalty count starting to hurt the Hurricanes, referee Paul Williams told Captain Brad Shields to “keep it clean” as the Canes found themselves deep in their own 22. The Drua backed themselves with a tap and go, running it straight at the Hurricanes defence with brute Fijian power.

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The match was almost turned on its head following a head collision with Tevita Ikanivere of the Drua, leading Hurricanes player, Du’plessis Kirifi to receive yellow.

Even after another yellow card, the Drua couldn’t capitalise against the 13 man Hurricanes with the visitors playing with such ferocity that they could have still been playing with 15.

With the Drua making 8 handling errors to the Hurricanes 13 penalties at this point in the game, it could have gone either way but ultimately the Hurricanes game management and defence was too much for the Drua.

Final score: Fiji Drua 15 – 38 Hurricanes

Simple mistakes summarised the Drua’s efforts tonight, and if the Drua could have kept ahold of the ball and capitalised on the lack of discipline from the Hurricanes it could have been a different result.

With the Canes down to 13 men and only conceding 3 points against a hungry Drua attack, it goes to show the defensive effort from the boys in black. Jordie Barrett was critical for the Canes in defence, typically known for his attacking prowess, he was a key defensive player during this game.

For the Drua, it’s the battle of the pacific next week as they face Moana Pasifika, fighting it out for the mid table. The Hurricanes Travel to Canberra to face the Brumbies who are currently sitting in 3rd place.

Written by Josh Pritchard.

Edited by Jack Tunney

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