Henry Time-Stowers (front) and Moana Pasifika’s haka at the start of the game against the Brumbies at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland over the weekend. Photo: RNZ/22053009
Talk about saving the best for last: Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua both ended their seasons in fine style over the weekend - with the Drua mounting a stunning comeback to fall one point short against the Chiefs, while Moana Pasifika pulled off a huge upset over the Brumbies.
Both games very much summed up what everyone had hoped to see from these sides in their debut attempts at Super Rugby.
it hasn’t been easy for either side.
Drua didn’t get to play a game in front of their fans in Fiji until round 11,
when they could experience their massive home ground advantage in the islands.
Moana had to deal with wretched false starts to the season due to Covid-19
issues (both their own and those of other teams).
both teams were sold to an awaiting public as being high energy, high flying
new additions that would breathe life into the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific
that happen? Well, yes and no.
sides missed the playoffs, which was expected, winning two games each. The
much-anticipated clash between the Drua and Moana Pasifika was annoyingly
played not only at a neutral venue, but also on a Saturday afternoon (NZ time)
so plenty of people didn't even see it. The game itself was surprisingly
one-way traffic, with the Drua running out 34-19 winners.
the two, the Drua certainly lived up to the hype of at least being entertaining
on the way to their 12 losses. Their comeback against the Reds was incredible,
scoring three tries in 10 minutes, a scene they duplicated against the Chiefs
Pasifika, not so much, but they did have an incredibly difficult schedule of
playing all the New Zealand teams first that necessitated a far more
fact, you were just as likely to see Moana kicking for the corners and engaging
in the much-maligned lineout drive tactics.
relied heavily on the influence of former Wallaby Christian Leali'ifano, who,
along with Levi Aumua and Henry Time-Stowers, could lay claim to being their
best of the year.
unfortunately, the one thing you could count on more than anything else was
Moana being on the wrong side of penalty counts that often cost them dearly.
They could have had a win over the Highlanders, but gave away five entries into
their 22 that resulted in tries.
is why, in their win over the Brumbies, it was telling that they snapped that
streak. Although there was a weird, albeit amazing, situation when veteran prop
Sekope Kepu marked his 150th Super Rugby game in the worst possible way by
getting sent off and Moana went up a gear and scored two tries, the game was
actually won by simply playing smart footy and letting the Brumbies implode.
tries were great, but what was even greater looking forward to next season was
being in Australia’s warmer climates helped the Drua establish a home away from
home, they clearly found New Zealand soil like some sort of kryptonite. Their
two losses to New Zealand sides in Fiji were by a combined four points. The two
losses to New Zealand sides in New Zealand were by 123.
a bit of work to do there if they are to be a truly competitive team in the
future, but the Drua’s ability to pack out their home games is something that
Moana will be extremely jealous of. Much was made of how they could tap into
Auckland’s large Pasifika community support, we'll have to wait till next
season to see if that eventuates.
fact, the Drua’s turnouts may well be the way to actually make the Super Round
concept work. An entire slate of games in Fiji would be a seriously tempting
package for New Zealand and Australian fans, and would do great things for the
the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika ended up where they were predicted to, the
signs are there that they’re not going to end up as reincarnations of the
pretty much every aspect of society, the least-resourced suffered the most due
to Covid-19, with Super Rugby being no exception. Let’s hope for a more even
playing field in 2023.