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Benetton scores late winner against 14-man Sharks

MATCH REPORT: Benetton replacement Jacob Umaga scored a try and conversion in the 78th minute to snatch an unlikely United Rugby Championship win over the Sharks at Kings Park, in Durban, on Saturday.

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Coming back from 15-24 down, the Italian team scored 10 unanswered points in the final 10 minutes for a 25-24 win – to keep alive their play-off hopes and a place at Europe’s top table next season.

The two bonus points – one for four tries and one for losing by seven points or less – will be of no consolation to a Sgharks team already out of the running.

However, the Sharks, less than two weeks out from their big European date, will be concerned about the fitness of World Cup-winning Springboks Vincent Koch and Eben Etzebeth, both of whom left the field at the end of the first quarter.

Captain Lukhanyo Am also left the field just before half-time, causing further disruptions to the home team.

Three other Boks – Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Grant Williams – failed to take to the field for the second half.

It did not help their cause when centre Murray Koster was red-carded five minutes from time for foul playing – making head contact with an opponent in an attempt to clear out at a tackle.

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That allowed Umaga to snatch the win with a sublime converted try,

* To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!

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Tries from Aphelele Fassi, Ox Nche and Werner Kok (two), with Siya Masuku converting two of them, had put Sharks 24-18 ahead before Koster was sent off in the 75th minute for a dangerous clear out on Tommaso Menoncello that resulted in head-to-head contact.

Menoncello and Gianmarco Lucchesi crossed for Benetton, with Leonardo Marin converting a try and landing a penalty and Umaga adding the extras on his try having also kicked a penalty.

With two rounds left, Benetton can still reach the quarterfinals while the Sharks were already out of the running, leaving them to focus on the Challenge Cup Final on May 24.

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Benetton drew first blood through a Marin penalty but their lead ended in the 13th minute when Fassi took a long, floated pass and used his footwork to finish.

The Sharks’ second try lacked the dynamism of the first but was no less effective as Nche drove over from close range.

Benetton were in danger of being swept away but also showing flashes of promise in attack and five minutes before the interval they were over through Menoncello.

The midfield combined off scrum ball to create an opening for Menoncello and the Italy centre had the gas to finish in the right corner.

The Sharks’ frustration was compounded by Lukhanyo Am departing with an injury incurred while trying to prevent the try.

Their wobble continued into the second half when an impressively dominant maul swept Benetton over for their second with Lucchesi touching down.

But Kok rounded off a sequence of drives by his forwards, taking the ball and using his pace and strength to evade five attempted tackles.

Kok had less work to do for his second try in the 57th minute which was made possible by Fassi’s outstanding take of a high ball, allowing the Sharks to attack down the right.

Umaga kicked a penalty to move Benetton to within six points and then won the match for his side, finishing a fine try and converting.

The scorers

For the Sharks
Tries: Fassi, Nche, Kok 2
Cons: Masuku 2

For Benetton
Tries: Menoncello, Lucchesi, Umaga
Cons: Marin, Umaga
Pens: Marin, Umaga

Red card: Murray Koster (Sharks, 75 – foul play, head-on-head contact in clear-out)

Teams

Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Murray Koster, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Siya Masuku, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Vincent Tshituka, 7 Gerbrandt Grobler, 6 James Venter, 5 Corne Rahl, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Lappies Labuschagne, 20 Tino Mavesere, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Diego Appolis.

Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Ignacio Mendy, 13 Tommaso Menoncello, 12 Ignacio Brex, 11 Onisi Ratave, 10 Leonardo Marin, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Sebastian Negri, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Eli Snyman (captain), 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Bautista Bernasconi, 17 Destiny Aminu, 18 Giosué Zilocchi, 19 Edoardo Iachizzi, 20 Riccardo Favretto, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Jacob Umaga, 23 Marco Zanon.

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Morné Ferreira (South Africa) and Hanru Van Rooyen (South Africa)
TMO: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)

* Additional reporting by @URCOfficial

 

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