Reds denied a losing bonus point by Drua in Fiji as Suli Vunivalu is sent off for tripping


Suliasi Vunivalu’s return to Suva has ended in devastation after being sent off for two trips during the Queensland Reds’ 28-19 defeat to the Drua on Saturday afternoon.

After being “punched in the face” early by the home side, who scored two tries inside the opening 10 minutes, the Reds cut the margin to six points when George Blake managed to get on the end of a rolling maul and score.

But a penalty to Drua playmaker Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula after the full time siren not only sealed the nine-point win, it also denied the Reds a losing bonus point.

“Look, we got punched in the face early,” Reds co-captain Liam Wright said.

“Our contact wasn’t good enough, we were falling off tackles and Fiji run hard, especially in front of their home crowd. We knew they would after results in the past.

“But the fight, the bounce back was really good. We found a way back into the game, especially towards half-time.

“But, probably, the story of the game was that penalty before half-time allowing three points. That ill-discipline crept in and killed a few of the opportunities that we were creating, especially in our A-zone.”

Kitione Salawa is tripped just short of the try line by Suli Vunivalu at HFC Stadium, on May 18, 2024, in Suva. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

While the Reds weren’t helped by the loss of Vunivalu, who was shown his second yellow card in the 46th minute for putting out his right leg and making contact with Selestino Ravutaumada near the tryline, the visitors won the penalty count 9-12.

But they rarely made the most of their chances, with the Reds’ lineout often being picked off.

The Drua’s tryline defence also stood tall, too.

“Look, our lineout didn’t function well enough, the Drua put a lot of pressure on there so that took away a lot of our platform for the backs and, as forwards that’s something we pride ourselves on, so we’ve got to be better there,” Wright added.

“Probably our breakdown as well. I thought we were carrying hard, but they were separating us from our cleaners and getting on the ball well.”

Along with Wright, Fraser McReight was busy and Tate McDermott back to his electric best around the ruck.

But it was Hunter Paisami that was the Reds’ best, with the inside centre setting up the opening try with a pinpoint kick for Floyd Aubrey to hit back for the visitors in the 12th minute.

Twelve minutes later and the Reds had their second as Lawson Creighton took the ball to the line and surprised himself by breaking it and scoring.


Lawson Creighton that’s OUTRAGEOUS ????#SuperRugbyPacific

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 18, 2024

The visitors let the Drua off shortly after and then paid the price as Armstrong-Ravula banged over a penalty to give the home side an 18-14 lead.

Inspirational hooker Tevita Ikanivere scored his second try early in the second half.

The converted try looked like breaking the Reds, particularly after Vunivalu’s clumsy mistake saw him shown a second yellow card.

The strength from @Fijian_Drua‘s Tevita Ikanivere is unreal! ????#SuperRugbyPacific

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 18, 2024

But the Drua then had little territory as their handling, scrum and work around the ruck fell to pieces.

The Reds, who left a couple of key players behind including Matt Faessler, eventually scored through Blake.

It wasn’t enough though as the Drua consolidated themselves in the top eight.

“We didn’t perform well last week but we did this week,” Ikanivere said. “That was for our friends and family.

“The team performed well today. I challenged everybody this week to show up today and I think they did. I just got the tries because I was there at the right time.”

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