Fijian Drua show off new talent in final pre-season encounter

Fijian Drua’s trial victory over the Western Force has shown they won’t be one-trick ponies in their second Super Rugby Pacific season.

Mick Byrne’s side beat the Force 48-38 at Brisbane’s Wests Rugby Club on Thursday night in their final hit-out before next Saturday’s season opener against fellow competition sophomores Moana Pasifika in Auckland.

Renowned for their opportunistic play, Byrne was pleased to see some patience as they held the ball and used their maul to score four consecutive first-half tries.

They went to the air in the second half with Iosefo Masi the target, the outside centre who won rugby sevens gold for Fiji at the Tokyo Olympics and then spent two years in the North Queensland NRL system.

The Force trailed 41-24 with 12 minutes to go but got back to within three points of the Drua, before their after-the-siren try sealed a second trial win from two pre-season hit-outs.

With his team set to call Fiji home after a debut season spent mostly in northern NSW, Byrne has seen dramatic improvement.

“We had a year to get to know what it’s about but a year isn’t a long time, especially with players who’ve never played professional rugby before,” he told AAP post-game.

“Last year we were a little loose and not used to those things, but they look like they’ve got their heads around what it looks like to be a professional team.”

Byrne lamented a return to “sevens rugby” when they had an early lead, but was pleased they had shown glimpses of what was needed to compete in 2023.

“We want to create a bit more of a third dimension to our game with the kicking,” he said.

“It’s not something we’ve been good at, but we’re working on it and hopefully they can enjoy that as much as they enjoy the offload and taking them on.

“The maul is a new source of points for us; we’re learning how to play that 15s game.”

Force recruit and Wallabies hooker hopeful Folau Fainga’a limped off with an ankle injury, while fellow recruit Hamish Stewart struggled to have an impact as he looked to nail down the No 10 jersey after leaving the Queensland Reds.