Duvenage steers 14-man Benetton to win over Edinburgh
MATCH REPORT: Benetton survived the early sending off of debutant Matteo Minozzi to claim a hard-fought 24-17 victory over Edinburgh in the United Rugby Championship.
Minozzi was dismissed for dangerous play after just 10 minutes at the Stadio Monigo on Saturday but the hosts – who had two spells with just 13 men – claimed a hard-fought, bonus-point win with tries from Marcus Watson, Sebastian Negri, Niccolo Cannone and Rhyno Smith.
Edinburgh twice fought back to level in the second half with Henry Immelman claiming a double but Smith’s score proved decisive as Benetton held on in a nervy finish.
It was a gritty showing from the home side, who could hardly have made a worse start.
Charlie Savala landed a penalty to give Edinburgh a 3-0 lead but that was the least of Benetton’s problems as Minozzi was sent off after catching Wes Goosen in the head with a high boot.
The Italians responded well and enjoyed a prolonged spell of possession. They were confident enough to decline a penalty shot at goal and were rewarded when Tomas Albornoz sent Watson over in the corner with a cut-out pass.
Edinburgh were pinned back on their line as Benetton maintained the momentum and their task got harder when Goosen was sinbinned after a series of infringements.
Henry Pyrgos escaped a yellow card after being penalised for a deliberate knock-on but Benetton eventually broke through when Sebastian Negri touched down from a looping Dewaldt Duvenage pass.
That gave Benetton a 10-3 interval lead but Edinburgh hit back after the break as a delayed pass from Savala brilliantly opened up the defence for Immelman to skip over a challenge and touch down.
With Savala converting, the scores were brought back to level but parity did not last long.
Benetton reclaimed the initiative when Cannone forced his way over and Albornoz’s first conversion of the afternoon established a seven-point cushion. Another twist followed as Benetton were reduced to 13 players when Federico Ruzza was sinbinned.
Edinburgh made their two-man advantage count as Nick Haining broke a tackle and sent Immelman over out wide on the hour. Savala again added the extras but Edinburgh could not keep up the intensity.
A brilliantly-disguised and well-weighted chip over the top from Duvenage wrongfooted Edinburgh and Smith raced through to touch down for a try Jacob Umaga improved.
Smith became the second Benetton player sinbinned for a high tackle in the closing minutes but the hosts held on.
Player of the Match
Dewaldt Duvenage. Benetton needed to show plenty of grit to get over the line in this hard-fought contest given their numerical disadvantage, but they also needed some panache and Duvenage provided it. The South African made a big difference as he created tries with a clever pass and an even more eye-catching kick.
Play of the match
There were some excellent demonstrations of finishing out wide in this game but the pick of the tries was Smith’s decisive score 13 minutes from time. Duvenage showed great awareness as he chipped a fine kick over the defence and Smith, although the bounce was kind, pounced clinically.
Tries: Watson, Negri da Ollegio, Cannone, Smith
Cons: Albornoz, Umaga
Tries: Immelman 2
Cons: Savala 2
Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Matteo Minozzi, 10 Tomas Albornoz, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Ivan Nemer, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Giovanni Pettinelli, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Jacob Umaga, 23 Tommaso Menoncello.
Edinburgh: 15 Henry Immelman, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Matt Currie, 12 James Lang, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Charlie Savala, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Ben Muncaster, 7 Luke Crosbie (captain), 6 Nick Haining, 5 Jamie Hodgson, 4 Marshall Sykes, 3 Angus Williams, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Boan Venter.
Replacements: 16 Patrick Harrison, 17 Jamie Jack, 18 Lee Roy Atalifo, 19 Glen Young, 20 Connor Boyle, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Chris Dean.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Filippo Russo (Italy), Alex Frasson (Italy)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)