The Drua march into one of the iconic Rugby stadiums for the first time and are hosted by the Australian Super Rugby Champions no less. The Queensland Reds are one of three undefeated sides in the current competition. The Brumbies are 4-0 after last night’s win over the Rebels and unsurprisingly the Crusaders are yet to taste defeat heading into their blockbuster clash with the Chiefs.
High on confidence
The Drua head into this clash on the back of their historic first win high on confidence and a ever growing belief of their place in this competition. Only a month ago the Drua were playing their first trial match, the following week reality had well and truly set in after the Waratahs handed the Drua their first few lessons. One being a week is a long time in rugby. And it is. Despite winning their first ever match, the celebrations or lack thereof from the team last Friday night showed that the Drua are not here to just win 1 game, they’re not getting carried away since a bigger challenge is only 8 days away.Embed from Getty Images
Roll on, Round 4
The team is starting to take shape, we’re starting to see players cement their positions in the side. Upfront Kaliopasi Uluilakepa and Samu Tawake for the third straight week hold down their loose and tight head positions. At hooker Mesulame Dolokoto gets his first start giving former Counties Manukau and now Flying Fijian representative Zuriel Togiatama his first opportunity. The feisty hooker says he is “really looking forward to whatever time I get out there. Just hope I can make some sort of difference“.
Uluilakepa up against Taniela Tupou in the scrum is worth the price of admission alone. Uluilakepa and Tawake together have stood up to all comers thus far and today face one of Australian Rugby’s pin-up boys, and for good reason.
Over their first 3 matches the Reds have won 26 of their 33 scrums. The Drua, 27 from 31 for a very respectable 87% efficiency compared to 78% for the Reds. That tells us at least at scrum time the Drua can really put some pressure on and force a few penalties.
The real problem area
I guess it’s clear for everyone to see, the lineout is about the only area where there has been very little, if any improvement. And that’s not a dig at Tevita Ikanivere. The lineout has many moving pieces to just lay the blame on the man throwing it in. Very much like the previous 4 matches including the trial, once the Drua start mixing it up and throwing past the first jumper it gets really messy. Mesulame Dolokoto is the most experienced hooker in the side and with a settled back 5 we should see better results tonight.Embed from Getty Images
Back to his old stomping ground Teti Tela leads the Drua attack as he did in the second half of last weeks match. Barking orders at his teammates and managing the back half of the match to ensure the Drua came home with a wet sail. All this in his first match. With a bit more running in the legs and with Suncorp having an unwritten rule of fast running rugby, Tela could come in with a run-and-gun approach tonight ala the Barbarians match in 2019.
Well if any team is going to test your defence, it will be the Queensland Reds. Watching the Broncos vs Rabbitohs match last night, the surface looks in great condition considering a only a week ago it was under water. The Reds love to move the ball and use the length of the field. Much of the Reds attack will come off James O’Connor who will use his strong midfield pairing of Hamish Stewart and Hunter Paisami and also look to link up with dynamic fullback Jordan Petaia. The Reds love a second man option out the back and will tempt the Drua outside defenders like Vinaya Habosi and Selestino Ravutaumada to rush in. The Drua will have to keep an eye on Paisami who is used to straighten up the attack.
Why the Drua can win
Although feet firmly grounded, the Drua are riding a wave of confidence. They got their win out of the way, and now it’s time to play. If they are to win tonight it will come down to how well they do the little things right, an area that has really plagued them at times. The longer the Drua stay in the match the more pressure it builds on the Reds. If they can minimize their errors and stay in the game deep into the second half, there’s enough firepower and experience on the bench in the likes of Manasa Saulo, Onisi Ratave and Frank Lomani to bring home the win for the Drua.
Peni Matawalu will be watched closely by the opposition. His big performance last week would have forced Brad Thorne and the Reds to take notice. His threat as a runner could tie up an extra defender at the ruck, opening up opportunities for the loose forwards running at one less shoulder.Embed from Getty Images
Player to watch
I’m going to say it, I think Kalaveti Ravouvou has been quite in the first 3 games. Whilst most the attention has been on the other Drua backs, the former Namosi centre has quietly gone about his business. Tonight I predict we see the best of him with ball in hand. A fast game against the Reds will bring him out of his shell and give him a chance to show his attacking skills.
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