A late comeback by the Canberra Vikings wasn’t enough as the Fijian Drua extended their formidable home ground record, by defeating the Vikings 40-35.
Both teams had plenty to play for, as the winner would likely be sitting in first place on the table heading into the last round of the NRC season, but it was the Drua who came out on top.
After a slow start in the opening minutes where both teams struggled handling the ball in the 30 degree heat, it was the Vikings who struck first blood when Len Ikitau out ran Aprorosa Tabulawaki to plant the ball down.
The Drua responded not long after, as a line break from Alivereti Veitokani set up an Apisalome Waqatabu try to level the scores.
From then on the Fijian’s showed why they are the in form team of the competition when Levani Kurumudu gave the lead to the Drua for the first time after he ran onto a loose ball.
Waqatabu added his second 13 minutes before the main break, after he ran onto a knock on, forced by Andy Muihead, in which Waqatabu flicked the ball up to himself to charge towards the line.
Two tries in two minutes by Veitokani and Tabulawaki meant that the Drua had a comfortable 26-point lead on the 33rd minute.
Jordan Jackson-Hope scored the Vikings’ second before half time, to give some sort of confidence for the Canberra side as both teams headed to the sheds, with the scores 33-14.
The Vikings started the second half where they left off, as Jackson-Hope added his second to make it a 12-point ball game.
Joe Powell then added a much-needed try for the Vikings after he dotted down on the 48th minute, as they trailed by just a try.
The Vikings though didn’t give up hope as they forced the Drua to defend deep in their own half in the early stages of the second half, and soon got reward when replacement prop, Max Bode levelled the scores through a rolling maul.
A Wharenui Hawera conversion meant they held the lead for just the second time of the match, with 20 minutes remaining.
However, as has been the case for most of the NRC this season, the Drua only needs a small glimpse of an opening to score and that was the case when Kurumudu added to his tally to regain the lead for the Fijian side.
The Drua were then down to 14 men for the rest of the game, as Mosese Voka received a yellow card after coming in from the side.
The Vikings were desperate to find a winning formula late on, as they shifted the ball side to side looking to find a gap but some resolute defence by the Drua earned themselves a penalty as they cleared the danger.
A knock on in the Vikings lineout on the 80th minute, near their attacking 22, meant that that they would be ruing their missed opportunity to seal the win but for the Drua they can breathe a sigh of relief.
Fijian Drua 40
Tries: Waqatabu 2, Kurumudu 2, Veitokani, Tabulawaki
Cons: Waqatabu 4, Veitokani
Yellow Cards: Voka
Canberra Vikings 35
Tries: Ikitau, Jackson-Hope 2, Powell, Bode
Cons: Hawera 5