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May 26, 2024, 4:18 pm
Fiji News, Regional, Sports

Highlanders turn up the heat on Drua to qualify for playoffs

Fiji One News Team
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The Highlanders have booked themselves into the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs with a bonus point 39-3 victory over the Fijian Drua in Dunedin this afternoon.

The home side were too hot for the visitors to handle under the roof – scoring five tries to nil. 

According to Sky’s commentary team, the Drua went straight from the airport to a retailer in Dunedin to buy blankets and jackets to help cope with the wintry conditions in the south following their charter flight from Fiji.

And they had little answer to a Highlanders attack that has been inconsistent this season but fired today through the outstanding wing Jona Nareki, who scored two tries, fellow wing Timoci Tavatavanawai, who scored one, and fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, who also scored one and featured in several assists.

Replacement loose forward Nikora Broughton scored the Highlanders’ fifth try with an intercept to rub salt in the wounds.

The Highlanders’ defence was also outstanding, with halfback Folau Fakatava leading the way in the second half.

The five competition points allowed the Highlanders to leapfrog the Rebels into sixth position on the table with one match remaining – a difficult assignment against the No.2-ranked Hurricanes in Wellington.

But after missing out on the finals last year, the Highlanders brought an intensity that suggested they would be difficult quarter-final opponents for anyone in a fortnight. As it stands, they will face the Brumbies in Canberra.

Skipper Billy Harmon said: “It feels good. That [qualifying] was the goal from the start. We came out here to perform, the pressure was on. We talked about being clinical from the start and we were.”

The Drua, in eighth place, are a good chance to maintain their position and qualify for a finals appearance as they host the Rebels in Lautoka in their final game.

The Force, in ninth, have claims, but face the third-placed Brumbies in their final regular season match, with the Crusaders, in 10th, still an unlikely chance after upsetting the Blues in Christchurch last night.

The Crusaders, who held out the Blues 29-27, face Moana Pasifika in their final round-robin match.