Brumbies breathe sigh of relief after holding on against physical Drua pack as super sub saves the day


They were made to play until the last whistle, but the ACT Brumbies held on to post an important 28-20 win over the Fijian Drua in Canberra on Saturday night.

After opening up a 21-3 lead off the back of two tries to Test centre Len Ikitau, Mick Byrne’s Drua scored two converted tries to close the margin to 21-17 midway through the second half to have the Brumbies on the ropes.

But a superb cameo off the bench from loose-forward Luke Reimer, who won two crucial on-ball penalties and then scored a try, proved to be match-defining.

“It got a bit cold on the bench watching,” Reimer later quipped. “I just came on and did my job.”

Luke Reimer delivered a match-winning performance off the bench against the Fijian Drua at GIO Stadium on May 04, 2024. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

His coach Stephen Larkham added: “He was good tonight. We were talking about making a change with about 30 minutes to go so he had to sit on the bench for another 10 minutes. His first involvement was a steal at the breakdown and then down the other end he gets a try, so he’s had a really good night.”

That he did and without his impact, the Brumbies may well have left the wintry, wet evening without the crucial four points.

At the heart of the Brumbies’ troubles were their discipline issues.

The home side was on the end of a 17-9 penalty count, with the Drua dominating the scrum and physical battles.   

“It was a tough game,” Test front-rower Allan Alaalatoa said.

“That was expected. Fiji are a great outfit.

“They put us under immense pressure all game, especially through their physicality and then their set-piece, so we’ve got a lot to look at moving forward.”

Ikitau put it more bluntly: “They put us under a lot of pressure with their ball-runners and we’ve got to fix that, that was terrible and we’ll go again next week.”

Len Ikitau scored a first-half double for the Brumbies in their narrow win over the Fiji Drua at GIO Stadium on May 04, 2024. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Alaalatoa, who was playing his second match following his Achilles injury last July, said their challenges came off the back of losing the physicality battle.

“They were winning the collisions a lot, which meant that they put us on the back foot,” he said.

“Our boys were probably trying too hard, a few penalties coming in from the side, things that we can control, but I think that just all comes off the back of losing the collisions.”

Drua skipper Meli Derenalagi was one of his side’s best but recognised the Brumbies were ripe for the picking midway through the second half.

“It was a very frustrating match for us,” the back-rower said.

“We knew the Brumbies would be playing their hearts out in front of their home fans, but we brought that physicality and intensity. We will learn from this game and work on it for the next three games.”

That is a CHEEKY nudge ????

Len Ikitau nabs his second of the night with Brumbies leading 21-10 at the interval.#SuperRugbyPacific #BRUvDRU

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 4, 2024

Early on and it looked like it would be one-way traffic.

Ikitau scored in the sixth minute before his skipper Alaalatoa crossed two minutes later.

After a stack of possession and territory, the Drua decided opted to try and take three and Isaiah Amstrong-Ravula put the visitors on the board after 35 minutes.

The Brumbies however immediately responded as Ikitau scored his second after storming onto a lovely grubber from midfield partner Tamati Tua.

But the Drua managed to take the momentum into half-time when Isoa Nasilasila scored off the back of a rolling maul. His late five-pointer saw the Drua cut the margin to 21-10 at half-time.

The home side saw none of the ball in the second half as the Drua took control.

Eventually, referee Nic Berry lost his patience and sent replacement prop Harry Vella, who came on early for James Slipper, to the sin bin in the 51st minutes.

Seconds later the Drua had their second try, with Simione Kuruvoli scoring down the short side from a scrum to make it a four-point game.

Enter Reimer, who immediately made his presence felt at the defensive breakdown.

After winning his side two penalties, the breakaway showed he’s no one-trick pony by scoring an important try as the Brumbies stopped the bleeding.

Armstrong-Ravula managed to reduce the deficit back to eight but the Brumbies found a way to secure the win.

“A bit of frustration, probably,” Larkham summed up the match.

“I thought they played exceptionally well. When you look at their last couple of games, they haven’t been that team that they showed tonight and they came out ready to play and they put it to us, and we sort of battled throughout that first half. They genuinely played really well in that second half.”

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