Our flying Fijians put Landers in playoffs

The Highlanders have clinched a playoff spot with a 39-3 win against the Fijian Drua at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium. 

They still have one round-robin match remaining, but win or lose against the Hurricanes next week and they will still feature at that business end.

And the best thing is they looked like a playoff team.

Their own flying Fijians - Jona Nareki Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Timoci Tavatavanawai - scored four tries between them, and every one was a treat.

Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens is tackled by Fiji Dura flanker Kitone Salawa. The fullback was one...
Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens is tackled by Fiji Dura flanker Kitone Salawa. The fullback was one of four Highlanders to score tries in Dunedin this afternoon. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Nareki nabbed two on his return from a hamstring complaint and was threatening with just about every touch.

Halfback Folau Fakatava had an outstanding match in his 50th for the club. He brought a lot of energy, and loose forward Oliver Haig was busy in the tight exchanges.

The Highlanders made a bright start, stringing together some promising phases.

But it was the Drua who should have opened the scoring.

Powerhouse No 8 Elia Canakaivata busted through and only a desperate ankle tap from Fakatava prevented him scoring.

The danger did not end there. First five Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula put up a kick pass into the in-goal area and only a wicked off break stopped winger Selestino Ravutaumada diving on it to score.

The Highlanders had to cling on a bit more before eventually clearing it.

Then they pounced. Haig took clean line-up take and the Highlanders swung in behind him and mauled their way up field.

They were able to slingshot of that back of that. Fakatava flicked it out to Sam Gilbert who shovelled it out to Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens who got a cracking pass to Nareki who finished superbly in the corner.

Nareki and Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens combined again in a 70m effort.

Fakatava switched direction from the back of the scrum and passed to Nareki, who sprinted through a gap, busted the cover tackle and waited until he drew the last defender to offload to Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens for another five points.

The Drua trailed 18-0 at the break but cut the margin with and early penalty to Armstrong-Ravula.

But the home side replied quickly, Nareki got another and this time it was some fast hands by Sean Withy which created the space for the winger to get across.

It is hard to single out the best try but Tavatavanawai’s five-pointer was rather special.

Gilbert made a pinpoint cross field kick for Tavatavanawai who shovelled back inside to Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens who sent it straight back for the robust winger to score.

It was pretty much perfect.


The scores

Highlanders 39

Jona Nareki 2, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Nikora Broughton tries; Sam Gilbert 4 con, 2 pen

Drua 3

Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula pen

Halftime: 18-0