7 Apr 2024

Super Rugby Pacific round seven review: Drua see red, alleged racial abuse in the stands

11:30 am on 7 April 2024
Frank Lomani's elbow to the head of Josh Canham.

Frank Lomani's elbow to the head of Josh Canham. Photo: Sky Sport

Analysis - This weekend stood as one of the least tantalising in Super Rugby's entire history, not just because of the sawn-off fixture list but their utter predictability too. So, we should probably be thanking Frank Lomani and Jone Koroiduadua of the Drua for at least giving us something to talk about. But considering we're talking about the Drua halfback committing one of the worst acts of on-field violence seen in the professional era, probably not too loudly.

The Drua have become known for one thing and it's not spitefulness. It's the ability to take great advantage of playing at home and pulling off huge results up in Lautoka and Suva, while being, at best, a mixed bag on the road. Certainly not throwing elbows and headbutts, creating history in terms of straight red cards and causing their coach to contritely apologise for his teams' behaviour post-match.

Just to recap: Lomani, a Fijian test and former Rebels player himself, was slightly illegally taken out of a ruck by Josh Canham in the 57th minute with his side trailing by 14 points at AAMI Park in Melbourne. He responded by delivering a 12-6 elbow slice to the back of the Rebels lock's head, a strike so dangerous it's illegal in the UFC. Then, with the game well and truly gone, Koroiduadua delivered a head butt to Alex Mafi as a scrum broke up.

What exactly got into their heads? The Drua should be well used to losing on the road by now, perhaps it was the nature of this one that made it different. Unlike a lot of their other losses, they weren't just in the game at halftime, the Drua were comfortably leading before the Rebels staged an impressive 26-point run to take the game away from them.

Frustrating for sure, but still no grounds to force referee Damon Murphy to produce only the second- and third-straight red cards for deliberate violent conduct since the system was overhauled in 2021 to accommodate 20-minute replacements for reckless tackle technique. To make things even uglier, footage has emerged of an alleged racial abuse incident in the stands after Lomani's send off.

It certainly took the shine off what was eventually an important 41-20 victory for the Rebels, a side that a some predicted might not even have still been in existence at this stage of the season. They now sit fifth on the table and will be confident of pulling off another result next weekend when they host the struggling Highlanders.

Blues and Brumbies rampant, another backward step for Moana

Meanwhile, things very much went according to script in the other games. The Blues and Chiefs may as well have gone for a run up the nearest hill instead of actually playing their fixtures for all the good it did them, neither of which ever really got above opposed training levels.

The Blues can't really be ignored as serious title contenders now after the 50-3 demolition of the hapless Force means they've now scored almost 100 points in their last two games. They're now second on the table heading into their bye week, once they come out they face the Brumbies at home.

That will be an interesting match, the top Australian side are now third overall after a 40-16 win over the Waratahs in Canberra, one they were made to work hard for in the first half before running away with it in the second. If you're not from Christchurch, it is pretty funny that the now 1-6 Tahs' only win this season has been against the Crusaders.

At least their points differential isn't that bad, something that can't be said about Moana Pasifika. Even though they're in ninth spot, Moana have now been gashed for 175 points in their last three games. Last night's 68-12 loss to a heavily rotated Chiefs side was the worst of the lot - something needs to come right fast before their match on Friday night against the Reds.