Benetton maintain 100 per cent record with win over Connacht

The home side’s defensive prowess proved critical in dogged win in Treviso

Connacht’s Cian Prendergast in action during his team’s defeat against Benetton in Treviso. Photograph: Elena Barbini/Inpho

Connacht’s Cian Prendergast in action during his team’s defeat against Benetton in Treviso. Photograph: Elena Barbini/Inpho

 

Benetton 20 Connacht 12

Benetton’s impressive Rainbow Cup form continued with a deserved victory over an underwhelming Connacht at Stadio Monigo in Treviso.

The 20-12 scoreline reflected a hard-fought game, but the home side’s defensive prowess proved critical in preserving their 100 per cent record in the competition.

Although Connacht scored two tries to Benetton’s single effort, outhalf Paolo Garabisi was on target with five penalties to keep the scoreboard ticking over in the host’s favour.

Celebrating his 200th cap, loosehead prop Denis Buckley lasted just 32 seconds when he suffered a knee injury while forcing a turnover at the first breakdown. Connacht seemed to adjust well however - two successive penalties quickly followed and their maul delivered a second minute try. Ultan Dillane was the lineout provider, hooker Shane Delahunt claimed the touchdown, and Conor Fitzgerald added the extras.

The home side though replied immediately. Launching from the restart, they kept control until Italian international, Argentinian Ignacio Brex, cut open the defence to score in the corner.

Thereafter, Connacht struggled to find the clinical edge to their attacking game, failing to finish off three attacking chances in the face of an abrasive Italian defence. Instead Andy Friend’s men found themselves on the wrong side of the penalty count and the Treviso side added two penalties before the break for an 11-7 lead.

Within two minutes Connacht had started the second half as they did the first, capitalising on a penalty to launch another drive to the line. Paul Boyle positioned himself at the front, and with Bundee Aki adding his weight, Delahunt set it up for the Number 8 who touched down for a 12-11 lead. Fitzgerald missed the conversion and so it turned out to be Connacht’s final score.

Within minutes Benetton had taken the lead through Garbisi, although he missed a second penalty. With rain becoming an added feature, the dogged nature of the contest continued, but ultimately Connacht were consistently penalised at scrum time and paid the price, losing Finlay Bealham to the bin.

Kieran Crowley’s side, not needing to chase a bonus point, kicked the resulting penalty as their confidence continued to soar. Even the introduction of Abraham Papali’i failed to ignite Connacht’s cause when he was red carded for a shoulder-to-head tackle, and the victors added the penalty to ensure they re-took poll position again and celebrated their first win over Connacht since 2016.

Benetton: Jayden Hayward; Edoardo Padovani, Ignacio Brex, Marco Zanon, Monty Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Dewaldt Duvenage (Capt); Thomas Gallo, Corniel Els, Marco Riccioni; Niccolò Cannone, Federico Ruzza; Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro, Toa Halafihi.

Replacements: Gianmarco Lucchesi for Els, Marco Barbini for Duvenage and Irné Herbst for Ruzza (59 mins), Ivan Nemer for Gallo (70 mins).

Connacht: John Porch; Peter Sullivan, Bundee Aki,Tom Daly, Alex Wootton; Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham; Niall Murray, Ultan Dillane; Cian Prendergast, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Paddy McAllister for Buckley (1 min), Dominic Robertson-McCoy for Bealham (half-time), Dave Heffernan for Delahunt, and S Arnold for Porch and N Murray O Dowling for Murray (58 mins), Abraham Papali’i for Prendergast and Caolin Blade for Marmion (63 mins), Jack Carty for Fitzgerald (68 mins).

Referee: Ginaluca Gnecchi (FIR)

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