Drua win ends Crusaders' Super Rugby finals hopes

rugby01 June 2024 04:46| © AFP
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Fijian Drua players © Gallo Images

The Fijian Drua overwhelmed the Melbourne Rebels 40-19 on Saturday to snatch the last Super Rugby quarterfinal berth and end the play-off hopes of perennial champions the Crusaders.

In front of a vocal crowd in Lautoka, the Drua took command with three tries early in the second half to notch a bonus point win that lifted them to seventh, matching their finishing position last year.

The Rebels will finish eighth, meaning they'll play the first post-season match in their 14-season history in next week's quarterfinals, against the top qualifiers.

It could also be the last match the Rebels play, after Rugby Australia on Thursday rejected a private bid to take over the debt-laden club and said it would be shut down.

It ends a uncharacteristically poor-season for the 13-time champion Crusaders, who won the last seven straight titles under new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson but have failed to fire under his successor, Rob Penney.

A 43-10 defeat of Moana Pasifika on Friday – their fourth win from 14 games – kept the Crusaders in contention.

However, they will miss the quarterfinals by two points, just the second time they've failed to advance to the play-offs since 2001.

Penney said after his team's match he wasn't confident the Drua would be toppled in Lautoka, where they are unbeaten this year.

"We shouldn't be relying on other teams," Penney added.

"We are a better team than that, and for some reason or another we didn't get across the line in other games."

The Crusaders play-off hopes were firmly alive at halftime, with the scores locked 19-19 at halftime.

However, the Drua delivered a dagger in the 12 minutes after the interval, scoring thrilling tries through wingers Waqa Nalaga and Selestino Ravutaumada and scrum-half Frank Lomani.

There was no more scoring for the remainder of the match, mirroring the even nature of the first half.

Nalaga scored the game's opening try but the Rebels struck back with a penalty try – created by a dominant scrum – and crossed again through Andrew Kellaway and Josh Canham.

Outside backs Ilaisa Droasese and Iosefo Masi responded with tries for the Drua before the break.