Rhyno Smith try helps Benetton to dramatic win
MATCH REPORT: Jack Walsh saw his touchline conversion attempt to clinch a dramatic Ospreys comeback win agonisingly hit the post as Benetton held on to claim the narrowest of victories.
The Welsh region scored two tries in the last seven minutes as they nearly staged a remarkable recovery from 21-8 down, Reuben Morgan-Williams scoring the second when he touched down a Walsh kick in the in-goal area after the clock had ticked past 80 minutes.
That brought the Ospreys within a point at 21-20, but the score was to stay that way as Walsh’s conversion was a few inches out and the Italians could celebrate only their second away win in their last 12 United Rugby Championship matches.
The Ospreys, looking to bounce back from their heavy defeat to Munster, showed their aggressive intent early on by firstly kicking to the corner from a kickable penalty and then using the backs instead of the forwards.
Midfield creativity allowed right wing Luke Morgan to stroll over unopposed for the game’s opening score.
Benetton had a try by right wing Ignacio Mendy disallowed for a forward pass, but were not to be denied when, in the 22nd minute, centre Joaquin Riera regathered the ball after it went loose from a fly kick forward to cross.
Then it was a story of the kickers for the rest of the half as the penalties which had gone the Ospreys way early on started to go in favour of the Italians.
Jacob Umaga converted the try and then added two more penalty kicks to ease Benetton into the lead, despite a 40-yard reply from Ospreys number 10 Stephen Myler.
It meant the visitors led 13-8 at half-time, and they were clearly determined to extend that in the second half.
They started well with another Umaga penalty, before a series of fingertip catches from offloads after the restart took Benetton up to the Ospreys try line once again.
At first they were denied by the TMO, but from the drop out they were able to work left wing Marcus Watson clear on the outside and he went 40 yards for the try while the Ospreys were down to 14 with replacement flanker Harri Deaves in the bin.
The Ospreys needed a response and it was two of their young backs, centre Williams and debutant full-back Iestyn Hopkins, who looked to provide it. However they struggled to nail the final pass and opportunities went begging.
Ospreys continued to push and centre Owen Watkin put a long raking kick to the line which brought a penalty and could have seen a yellow card.
A kick to the corner followed and the backs joined the lineout drive, with hooker Sam Parry going over for a try converted by replacement fly-half Walsh.
That set up a thrilling finale and although Morgan-Williams got Ospreys within touching distance of victory, they came up just short in the end.
Tries: Morgan, Parry, Morgan-Williams
Tries: Riera, Watson
Pens: Umaga 3
Ospreys: 15 Iestyn Hopkins, 14 Luke Morgan, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Morgan Morris 7 Ethan Roots, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Huw Sutton, 4 Rhys Davies, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith (captain)
Replacements: 16 Tom Cowan-Dickie, 17 Garyn Phillips, 18 Rhys Henry, 19 James Fender, 20 Harri Deaves, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 Jack Walsh, 23 Michael Collins
Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Ignacio Mendy, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Filippo Drago, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Riccardo Favretto, 7 Alessandro Izekor, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Bautista Bernasconi, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Lapo Frangini, 17 Cherif Traoré, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Henry Time-Stowers, 20 Matteo Meggiato, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Giacomo Da Re, 23 Marco Zanon
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Mike English (Wales), Carwyn Williams (Wales)
TMO: Mark Patton (Ireland)