The Fijiana Drua have fought back to end the NSW Waratahs’ long reign of Super W dominance and cap an unbeaten debut season with an emotional title victory.
The Drua scored six tries to four in Saturday’s grand final at AAMI Park but kicked only one conversion, with Vitalina Naikore’s third try seven minutes from fulltime the difference in a 32-26 win.
The newcomers were pushed further than at any point in a dominant season, Waratahs hooker Natalie Delamere scoring a hat-trick of her own as the defending champions twice hit the lead in the second half.
“It is more than just a game to these girls. It’s years of hard work, sacrifice,” Drua lock Jade Coates said.
“This is history for us and a day we’ll never forget.
“It’s created a pathway for girls and women playing rugby … we played for past players, present, future players and our supporters.
“This is the start of something and we’ll only go up from here.”
The loss ended a run of four straight titles for the Waratahs, who were also beaten 29-10 by the Gold Coast-based Drua earlier this month.
The Waratahs arrived in Melbourne on Saturday a far more threatening prospect though, dominating the set piece and matching the Drua in open play.
Player of the match Naikore opened the scoring after a tight 20 minutes and it opened the floodgates at both ends, Delamere scoring three tries in 19 minutes either side of halftime.
In between the Drua worked their magic, Merewalesi Rokouono’s cross-field kick finding a flying Kolora Lomani for a brilliant try.
Poor conversion kicking hurt the Drua and when Waratahs forward Eva Karpani scored to take the lead and Drua captain Bitila Tawake was yellow carded the dream result looked dashed.
But fullback Timaima Ravisa’s long-range try, featuring a neat sliding stop to avoid her opposite number, gave the Drua a one-point lead.
Naikore then ran away to score after more great build-up play before some last-minute scrambling defence sparked joyous singing in the stands and then on the field after the full-time whistle.
“This is hard … it hurts a lot but I’m so proud of our girls and how they dug deep into those last minutes, we were still in the game,” Waratahs captain Grace Hamilton said.
“It’s so nice to see so much support around the game and Fijiana were unreal today and finished that game in true style.
“To be here playing rugby in Australia, I promise we’ll get better every single year and be back better and stronger.”
– Murray Wenzel