Moana Pasifika 34
Fijian Drua 36
Moana Pasifika could have had a better start to their sophomore season.
In a frantic affair, the side couldn’t close out their match against Fijian Drua, going down 36-34 at Mt Smart Stadium.
After being handed the wooden spoon with just two wins in their debut campaign in 2022, the side were looking to kick their second campaign off on the right foot. They’ll go home thinking they should have done so.
Strength in the carry from centre Levi Aumua and winger Timoci Tavatavanawai caught the attention in the early exchanges, the side’s execution close to the line could not be faulted, while their set piece play shone early, both scrum and lineout. Opening the scoring with tries to props Abraham Pole and Chris Apoua, the hosts shot out to a 12-point lead as the forwards dominated proceedings early.
They impressed early on the defensive end, too. Absorbing plenty of pressure before ultimately cracking – which was in large part due to their own doing. When it looked like they had turned the Drua away and secured possession for themselves, Moana Pasifika gave it right back.
The visitors continuously made their hosts pay for giving them opportunities.
As the game progressed, spaces opened up. Between the sides playing at a high pace – often opting for quick taps over scrums or kicks to the line from penalties – errors inevitably crept in.
A yellow card to Moana Pasifika lock Samuel Slade with his side leading 19-5 midway through the first half opened the door for the Fijian Drua to attack with a one-man advantage and they put it to great use to level up at 19-19 on the verge of halftime.
Moana Pasifika clawed their way back into the lead before the break, with midfield back Danny Toala making the most of a frenetic passage to capitalise on a Fijian error and scoot down the sideline to score.
The sides traded tries to open the second half, and as the minutes ticked away it became a matter of whether or not one would be able to pull away from the other.
That never happened. If one gained some momentum, they would soon welcome the opposition to try their hand.
Moana Pasifika coach Aaron Mauger noted the need to hold onto the ball against the Drua coming into the match, and being unable to do so might have been the key to their being unable to close out the win, conceding 12 turnovers to their opponent’s nine.
While they inched ahead by three through a Christian Leali’ifano penalty goal, the Fijian Drua never stopped asking questions.
Ultimately, they took advantage of some spaces in the Moana Pasifika defensive line, with Taniela Rakuro scoring out wide to steal the win for the visitors.
Moana Pasifika 34 (Abraham Pole 2, Chris Apoua, Mike Curry, Danny Toala tries; Christian Leali’ifano 3 cons, pen)
Fijian Drua 36 (Tevita Ikanivere 2, Iosefo Masi 2, Joseva Tamani, Taniela Rakuro tries; Teti Tela 2 cons, Caleb Muntz con)