NSW Country have forced a dramatic draw with an 81st minute try to keep defending NRC champions Fiji winless after three rounds of competition.

The Drua, who drew with Brisbane City in the opening round before being beaten by the Western Force in Suva last week, looked to have finally opened their account when they led by a converted try in the dying stages of the match.

With the Eagles a man down after winger James Kane was sent to the sin bin inside the final 10 minutes, the Drua seemed to have the upper hand in the final stages.

But having pushed their advantage out to seven points with a successful conversion attempt in the 69th minute, the Drua missed another that would have made them all but unbeatable and the Eagles threw everything at them.

Repeated pick and drive raids found a wall of Fijian defenders but Country remained patient and their efforts paid off when replacement Jack Grant barged over, leaving Connor O’Shea with the job of converting the try to force a draw.

He slotted the attempt from about 15m in from the right touch line to maintain the Eagles’ unbeaten start to the competition.

The Drua opened the scoring early in the match, with halfback Peni Matawalu crossing in the seventh minute.

And while Country hit back with a try to hooker Tom Horton just minutes later, the Drua pushed to a 14-5 lead inside the opening 20 minutes when lock Epeli Radaniva crossed, with his try converted.

Country hit back before the break though, with halfback Jake Gordon emerging from the bottom of a maul to claim a five-pointer, while the Eagles took a lead to the break after Junior Wallabies winger Mark Nawaqanitawase dived over in the corner, with Kane converting from the sideline.

The Drua started the second term a man down after Matawalu was shown a yellow card just before the break for a professional foul but the visitors were unfazed, scoring one of the tries of the tournament so far when he was still off the field.

When Eagles centre Nigel Ah Wong lost the ball deep in the Fijian half, the Drua pounced, with Aporosa Tabulawaki racing 90m to score after a left-foot cross-field soccer from fellow winger Nacanieli Narequva lobbed perfectly into his hands.

Fullback Enele Malele’s conversion gave the Drua a 21-14 lead, with the visitors going against their attacking instincts in the 69th minute and opting for the penalty conversion in a bid to seal their first win.

Vularika pushed the lead out to seven before the Eagles fought back, Grant scoring their fourth try of the afternoon in the 81st minute.

Rugby.com.au

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