Connacht make disappointingly tame exit from Challenge Cup as they are thrashed by Benetton

From start to finish the Italians have never delivered such a complete victory over the Irish province

Benetton 41 Connacht 19

Connacht’s hopes of a tilt at the European Challenge Cup crown wilted in Treviso when the home side delivered a comprehensive victory to advance to the quarter-finals.

Despite a bright opening when Connacht went 12-0 up, the Italians took control on their home turf in every facet of the game, dominating the proceedings at a fast and furious pace.

“Disappointed and very frustrated,” says coaching director Andy Friend. “We’re now out of the Challenge Cup which was something we were really targeting to go much further.


“They just seemed to grow and we didn’t, and that’s probably the disappointing thing, the way we wilted. We need to show a lot more fight than that.

“We were turning over possession, some of our kicks were quite loose, our set piece just wasn’t there, so maybe it’s just one of those days. The heat was definitely a factor, but the bottom line is it was not a good performance, and we’ve got our tails between our legs heading out of the Challenge Cup - very disappointed, very frustrated.”

Connacht’s focus now returns to the URC with games against Cardiff and Glasgow.

“We’re in a good position there. Now we need to capitalise on that and hopefully stay in that top eight and get ourselves in the quarter-finals.”

Connacht had wrested control in the 13th minute to deliver the opening score - John Porch taking a great line between Jacob Umaga and Dewaldt Duvenage to break into the 22 and eventually Conor Oliver crashed over.  Outhalf David Hawkshaw missed the conversion, but Connacht were back on the attack soon after with John Porch adding number two for a 0-12 lead.

However, the game’s momentum took a huge swing in favour of the home side, and they never looked back. Using their strength up front, they exposed Connacht’s defence, and before the break had racked up three tries from right wing Marcus Watson, fullback Rhyno Smith and left wing Edoardo Padovani, all converted by Umaga for a 21-12 half-time lead.

It did not get any better for Connacht who missed leaders Jack Carty and Jarrad Butler, who was pulled on the last training run. As the visitors coughed up possession, it was all too easy for the home side when Watson exploited a huge gap in defence to stroll in from 10 metres. And any hopes of a comeback were doused when the home side added another try on 52 minutes - Umaga delivering a long looping pass to give Watson an easy stroll to the line for the fourth try.

Connacht’s substitutes provided some impetus - Cathal Forde having created space for Porch to finish, with Forde also adding the conversion to narrow the gap 33-19.

However, Connacht simply failed to control possession, and the willing Italians delighted in the chance to add to their score through  Federico Ruzza and an Umaga penalty to march into the quarter-finals.

Scoring sequence: 4m try Oliver 0-5; 16m try J Porch, Hawkshaw con 0-12; 21m Watson try, Umaga con 7-12; 28m Smith try, Umaga con 14-12; 38m Padovani try, Umaga con 21-12. HT 21-12; 46m try Padovani, 52m Watson try, Umaga con 33-12; 56m try J Porch, Forde con 33-19; 62m Ruzza try 38-19; 76m Umaga pen 41-19.

Yellow card: C Oliver (73).

Benetton: R Smith, E Padovani, N Brex, T Menoncello, M Watson, J Umaga, D Duvenage (c), N Tetaz, G Nicotera, T Pasquali, N Cannone, F Ruzza, S Negri Da Oleggio, M Lamaro, H Stowers. Replacements: S Maile for Nicoterra (50), M Zuliani for Stowers (54), F Alongi for Pasquali (59m), T Albornoz for Padovani (62), T Gallo for Tetiz, A Izekor for Lamaro, and R Favretto for N Cannone (all 69), A Garbisi for Menoncello (73).

Connacht: T O’Halloran, J Porch, T Farrell, B Aki, M Hansen, D Hawkshaw, C Blade (c), P Dooley, D Heffernan, J Aungier, S Fifita, N Murray, C Prendergast, C Oliver, P Boyle. Replacements: S Jennings for O’Halloran (39-41m), D Tierney Martin for Heffernan (HT), J Duggan for Dooley, S Hurley-Langton for Boyle and S Illo for Aungier (all 47), O Dowling for Fifita and Jennings for O’Halloran and Forde for Hawkshaw (all 55), K Marmion for Blade (57).

Referee: Christophe Ridley (England).