Benetton end season in style with win over Cardiff
MATCH REPORT: Benetton ran in a stunning 10 tries on their way to a hugely impressive 69-21 victory over Cardiff in their final match of the season.
The hosts had lost their previous five home matches against Welsh opposition but never looked like losing a fixture they dominated on Friday.
Callum Braley, Tomas Albornoz and Rhyno Smith all touched down twice for the home side, while Lorenzo Cannone, Michele Lamaro, Federico Ruzza and Giovanni Pettinelli were also on the scoresheet.
Smith racked up 29 points for the second week running – the most by any player in a URC match this season.
Cardiff had to make do with two tries from Rhys Carre and one for Max Llewellyn, along with six points from the boot of Rhys Priestland, as they slipped to 14th in the final table.
Benetton applied the early pressure and made the first breakthrough in the 13th minute when Cannone went over following a line-out drive, with Smith adding the extras.
The hosts doubled their advantage three minutes later, with Albornoz taking the pass from Ignacio Brex before exploiting a gap in the Cardiff defence and sprinting for home, opening the door for Smith to split the posts again.
Italy skipper Lamaro was next to go over, running in under the posts after receiving a tidy offload from Ruzza. Smith could hardly have asked for an easier effort from the tee.
A Smith penalty followed and scrum-half Braley clinched the bonus point with another score under the posts that was again converted by Smith.
Carre ensured Cardiff did not end the half pointless, but even with Priestland’s conversion, the visitors trailed 31-7 at the break.
Prop Carre added a second shortly after the resumption, converted by Priestland, but Benetton were soon back in the groove with an excellent team try finished off by Albornoz.
Smith could not add the extras, but he rediscovered his range after some more good hands sent Braley over for his second in the 55th minute.
A Llewellyn try and two more points from Priestland’s boot reduced the arrears to 22, but Smith then scored Benetton’s seventh. Although he could not convert his own score, he did after Ruzza’s subsequent interception try.
Pettinelli then added try number nine before Smith rounded off a fantastic display by carrying Benetton into double figures for tries scored, converting both of the late touchdowns.
Player of the match
Fullback Smith could lay credible claim to the individual honour in Treviso, but it was actually fly-half Albornoz who left with the medal around his neck following his own two-try showing.
In truth, there were several candidates on a famous night for Benetton.
Play of the match
There were certainly plenty of tries to choose from, with Benetton’s accurate passing helping to put Cardiff to the sword.
But Ruzza will no doubt be making the case for his touchdown being the pick of the bunch – a one-handed interception followed by a sprint under the posts gave the lock a try to remember.
Tries: Cannone, Albornoz 2, Lamaro, Braley 2, Smith 2, Ruzza, Pettinelli.
Cons: Smith 8
Tries: Carre 2, Llewellyn
Cons: Priestland 3
Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Filippo Drago, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tomas Albornoz, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Ivan Nemer, 18 Nahuel Tetaz, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Toa Halafihi, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Joaquin Riera, 23 Leonardo Marin.
Cardiff: 15 Cam Winnett, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Max Llewellyn, 11 Theo Cabango, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 James Ratti, 7 Ellis Jenkins (captain), 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Carré.
Replacements: 16 Efan Daniel, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Ellis Bevan, 22 Ben Thomas, 23 Jason Harries.
Referee: Eoghan Cross (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Cole (Ireland), Alberto Favaro (Italy)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)