13-man Moana Pasifika holds on to beat Fijian Drua 39-36 in Super Rugby Pacific

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Moana Pasifika held on with 13 players to beat the Fijian Drua 39-36 Saturday in the first match of the season between the Pacific Island teams in Super Rugby Pacific.

A red card to Nigel Ah Wong for a no-arms tackle and a yellow card to former Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu for a professional foul left Moana Pasifika with only 13 men and a lead of 39-22 with just over 10 minutes remaining.

The Fijian Drua scored two late tries but it wasn't enough to take the match from Moana Pasifika.

The Drua had taken advantage of their numerical advantage with a long pass into an overlap which created a try for Epeli Momo seven minutes from fulltime. Then Selestino Ravutaumada led a breakout which resulted in a spectacular try to Junior Ratuva and cut Moana Pasifika’s lead to 39-36 with four minutes left.

The Drua seemed certain to finish over the top of Moana Pasifika with Ravutaumada in devastating form on attack. But crucial mistakes from the Drua, a lineout that wasn’t straight and a late turnover, gave Auckland-based Moana Pasifika a final possession and a chance to clear for touch and end the game.

Moana Pasifika may have earned the win with a dominant first-half performance and by scoring two tries when down to 14 men in the second. The Drua took too long to settle into their game and produce their best attacking form. Too much of their attacking effort was damaged by errors.

Backrower Lotu Inisi scored a try in first half stoppage time which set Moana Pasifika on course to a win after the teams had approached halftime locked at 8-8.

In the last play of the half Moana Pasifika attacked down the right flank then switched play to the left and Inisi crossed in an overlap to score a try, converted by William Havisi, which allowed the Pacific team to take a 15-8 lead to the break.

Henry Taefu then scored in the first passage of play in the second half and Moana Pasifika stretched its lead to 22-8 with another Havili conversion.

Both Pacific teams began with losses in the first round of the 2024 season. The Drua lost to the Auckland-based Blues and Moana Pasifika lost to the Dunedin-based Highlanders after leading at halftime. Saturday’s match during a Super Round in which all matches are being played in Melbourne has now given Moana Pasifika an important win and a 1-1 record after two rounds.

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AP rugby: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby