April 14, 2023
The Brumbies have held off the surging Fijian Drua to win 43-28 at GIO Stadium in one of the games of the Super Rugby Pacific season.
The fearless Drua didn't die wondering and traded haymakers with the competition's best Australian side, but couldn't find a go-ahead try in a lengthy late stand on the Brumbies' line.
After some hairy defensive moments, the Brumbies sealed the deal via some forward pack domination, their trademark rolling maul producing a penalty try seven minutes from time to finally break 10 points clear.
Winger Ben O'Donnell completed a hat-trick of tries in the dying stages to embellish the scoreline, although the 15-point margin perhaps flattered the Brumbies after a thrilling second term.
The Brumbies moved to 7-1 for the season but it was far from their most convincing display, routinely challenged after a strong start with a lack of attacking structure hurting them as the Drua surged.
What looked set to be a typical, machine-like Brumbies win was turned on its head with a Drua double blow on the stroke of halftime.
Starved of possession through the first half-hour, the visitors appeared to be guests at a Brumbies party as the hosts romped to a 19-0 lead highlighted by a silky 14-minute double for O'Donnell.
But after Brumbies lock Darcy Swain went to the sin bin for an intentional foul, the Drua powered over via halfback Peni Matawalu in their first sustained stint in attack.
And they were right back in the contest on halftime with Brumbies winger Andy Muirhead sent to the bin for a cynical play before in-form Drua five-eighth Teti Tela bounced through contact and scored under the posts to close to 19-14.
Each time the Brumbies stepped things up the Drua had an answer, a remarkable try for Iosefo Masi answering a Lachie Lonergan rolling maul effort before a sweeping team move was capped by the powerful Kalaveti Ravouvou effort to get them back within three points.
The visitors looked to have hit the front on 67 minutes only for a try to be chalked off via TMO intervention, the Brumbies somehow surviving a lengthy period on their own line before their penalty try put things to bed.
Swain's yellow card perhaps highlighted one flaw in the Wallaby hopeful's game, coming off a 2022 season where he picked up three yellows and one red card for club and country with a number of decision-making errors.
Fijian Drua's Tela put on a clinic at No.10, pulling the strings constantly with his pin-point cross-field kick for Masi's try a clear highlight.
Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa got attention for a knee injury early in the piece but played it out, while Swain and prop Blake Schoupp each left after head knocks.
BRUMBIES 43 (TRIES: O'Donnell 3, Samu, L. Lonergan, Muirhead, Penalty Try CONS: Lolesio 3/5, Debreczeni 0/1)
DRUA 28 (TRIES: Matawalu, Tela, Masi, Ravouvou CONS: Tela 4/4)
BRUMBIES (1-15): James Slipper, Lachlan Lonergan, Allan Alaalatoa, Darcy Swain, Nick Frost, Rob Valetini, Rory Scott, Pete Samu, Ryan Lonergan, Noah Lolesio, Ben O'Donnell, Ollie Sapsford, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Wright
RESERVES: Billy Pollard, Blake Schoupp, Rhys Van Nek, Nick Frost, Luke Reimer, Nic White, Jack Debreczeni, Declan Meredith
DRUA (1-15): Livai Natave, Zuriel Togiatama, Samuela Tawake, Isoa Nasilasila, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Joseva Tamani, Kitione Salawa, Elia Canakaivata, Peni Matawalu, Teti Tela (c), Tuidraki Samusamuvodre, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Iosefo Masi, Eroni Sau, Kitione Taliga
RESERVES: Mesulame Dolokoto, Haereiti Hetet, Jone Koroiduadua, Leone Rotuisolia, Rusiate Nasove, Philip Baselala, Michael Naitokani, Ilaisa Droasese
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry, Rueben Keane