The Western Force delivered an emphatic performance in Suva today to comprehensively defeat reigning National Rugby Championship title holders Fijian Drua by 23 points. It maintains the perfect start by the Force to the 2019 NRC season, defeating both sides who played in the 2018 Grand Final in the opening fortnight and making clear their own championship credentials.
Fiji is always tough on home soil but the Force did their homework and upped their defensive game to restrict the Drua to just two tries while plundering six of their own, including three to winger Jonah Placid.
Placid had already endeared himself to Force fans after scoring the winning try in the dying minutes of the opening round against Queensland Country, and today’s effort will ensure he continues to get plenty of plaudits. The speedy winger joined the Force just prior to the end of their Global Rapid Rugby season and looks to be a very handy pick-up for the club after returning to Australia after several seasons in France.
Fellow newcomer Byron Ralston and debutant Jake Strachan scored their first tries for the Force, while back-row enforcer Tevin Ferris also got his name on the try-scorers list. Ralston was the top try-scorer in the Brisbane Premier grade this year and has brought that form into the NRC.
While the attacking effort by the Force should be applauded, the win was set-up by a dogged defensive display that curtailed the normally potent scoring of the Fijian Drua.
After conceding 49 points in round one it was clear the Force were focussed on upping the defensive side of their game and they showed that in spades throughout the 80 minutes. None more so than in the final 20 where Fiji threw everything they had at the visitors but couldn’t find the try line, twice being held-up in-goal.
Andrew Deegan typified the defensive steel of the visitors when he brought down a rampaging Ratunaisa Nauma who made a rare line break and had clear sight of the try line. Deegan, the last man in defence for the Force, put his body on the line to stop dead his much larger opponent and give enough time for reinforcements to arrive and quell a promising Fiji attack.
The bonus-point win has also seen the Force bring home some silverware, taking back the Horan-Little Shield from the Drua who coincidently came to hold it after defeating the Force in round seven last year. The Horan-Little Shield is up for grabs by all teams in the NRC and the Force will now defend it when they take on the Melbourne Rising at UWA Sports Park on Sunday, 15 September.
Full time: Fijian Drua 15 – 38 Western Force
(Half time: Fijian Drua 10 – 26 Western Force)
Western Force: 38
Tries: Placid 3, Ferris, Ralston and Strachen.
Cons: Deegan 3, Prior.
Fijian Drua: 15
Tries: Kurumudu, Vularika.
Penalty Goal: Nacebe.