THE Macquarie Uni Sydney Rays have finished their NRC season on a high in Fiji with a dramatic 36-29 win over the Fijian Drua.
The Rays scored six tries to five but had to hold on in the dying stages as the Drua, urged on by a vocal home crowd at the national stadium in Suva, came at the visitors in the hot and steamy conditions.
At the 53 minute mark the Rays had jumped out to a 29-0 lead in the trying conditions but the home side weren’t to be outdone and at one stage the game closed things up to have the score at 29-22.
But the Rays were able to gather some possession and after a number of good charges from the forward replacement scrumhalf Nick Duffy was able to sneak his way over under the posts to push his side out to 36.
The Drua did hit back after that to get the scoreline to a gap of seven points but the Rays were able to hold strong and finished off the match when Harry Burey kicked the ball into touch.
The match was marred by some controversy with an eye gouging allegation on flanker Alex Perez just after halftime being dealt with after the game.
The officiating from referee Graham Cooper was baffling at times with many commentators wondering also about several other incidents including the high tackle that saw Drua winger E. Sau given a yellow card.
We will have to wait to see how the citing commissioner for the match sees this incident when Sau used a swinging arm.
The Rays went into the game knowing that it would be foolish to take on the Drua at their own game and it must be said that the game plan they executed for much of the game for head coach Julian Huxley was highly effective.
The Rays went to the break with a 12-0 lead after tries to Apo Latunipulu and Irae Simone got their side on the front foot after what had been a bit of an arm wrestle.
It must be said that the visitors were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty try when a series of scrum on the Drua line went unrewarded.
After the eye gouging allegation the Rays came too life and Damien Fitzpatrick’s first try from a nice rolling maul pushed the score out to 17-0.
It was soon 22-0 when skipper Fitzpatrick went in again after a nice break from Kepu Lokotui down the left edge.
The score then jumped to 29-0 when Simone went in again after a nice kick into space behind the Drum defence from Bryce Hegarty.
The Drua then sparked to life and staged the comeback that saw them come close but not close enough.
MINUTE BY MINUTE
25min: Rays unlucky not to get a penalty try from series of scrums.
35min: TRY Apo Latunipulu. Rays 5-0
40min: TRY Irae Simone converted by Hegarty. Rays 12-0
HT: Fijian Drua 0 Sydney Rays 12.
42min: Eye gouging allegation on Drug player. Rays 12-0
43min: TRY Damien Fitzpatrick. Rays 17-0
48min: TRY Fitzpatrick. Rays 22-0
51min: E Sau yellow carded for high shot on Kepu Lokotui
52min: TRY Simone converted by Hegarty. Rays 29-0
56min: TRY Drua. Rays 29-5
60min: TRY Drua. Rays 29-10
63min: TRY Drua. Rays 29-15
73min: TRY Drua. Rays 29-22
76min: TRY Nick Duffy, Sam Lane converts. Rays 36-22
78min: TRY Drua and converted. Rays 36-29
FT: Fijian Drua 29 Sydney Rays 36
Fijian Drua 29
Tries: Cavuilati 2, Douglas 2, Raidre,
Cons: Douglas 2/2
Sydney Rays 36
Tries: Simone 2, Fitzpatrick 2, Latunipulu, Duffy
Cons: Hegarty 2/5, Lane 1/1
Yellow card: Sau (Drua 52min)