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Leinster stay top of table with solid win over Benetton

MATCH REPORT: United Rugby Championship leaders Leinster comfortably maintained their place at the top of the table with a 47-18 bonus-point victory over Benetton in Dublin.

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Benetton started and finished the first half impressively, with Ignacio Mendy touching down in the first minute and Jacob Umaga tagging a monster penalty onto the wing’s late second try.

That cut Leinster’s lead to 21-18 at the break, but Jason Jenkins bagged their bonus-point soon after the restart to add to earlier scores from Scott Penny, Luke McGrath, and Liam Turner.

Making it a seven-try triumph in the end, Academy scrumhalf Ben Murphy notched his first senior score, and fellow replacement Brian Deeny and captain Penny added the late gloss.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell will have noted Ross Byrne’s encouraging return from injury. He landed his first four conversion attempts and was solid throughout his 69 minutes on the pitch.

The Italians swiftly showed exactly why they are sitting second in the standings. They worked the ball wide for Mendy to score in the right corner, with Umaga also converting.

Leinster applied pressure through their forwards in response, and Penny, supported by Ross Molony, plunged over beside the posts. Byrne’s conversion made it seven-all.

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The hosts added a quick-fire second converted try in the 13th minute, with scrumhalf McGrath the scorer after a slick offload from Jamie Osborne.

Umaga pulled back three points with a 25th-minute penalty, but a smartly-worked try off the training ground released centre Turner to crash over in determined fashion.

Nonetheless, an injection of pace and quick hands put Mendy over to close the gap again, and Umaga’s booming 59-metre penalty made it a three-point game at the turnaround.

Leinster still needed to shake off their rustiness, and lock Jenkins got them back on track with a 42nd-minute try. Tommy O’Brien’s high fielding was a highlight during the build-up.

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The Treviso-based side were making more errors now, and the 22-year-old Murphy picked from a 64th-minute scrum and neatly nipped over past two defenders.

Sam Prendergast replaced Byrne at flyhalf and his soft hands were all over Leinster’s penultimate try. He provided the assist and conversion for Deeny’s close-range effort, and then Penny drove in low to complete his brace.

Malakai Fekitoa was fortunate to avoid yellow late on for a high hit, but while Umaga was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, Leinster misfired with a loose Osborne pass in their last attack.

Man of the Match: Centre Jamie Osborne had some nice touches in attack, and was workmanlike in defence. His influence grew as Leinster pulled clear on the scoreboard and he was a deserving URC man of the match.

Scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Penny 2, McGrath, Turner, Jenkins, Murphy, Deeny
Cons: Byrne 4, Prendergast 2

For Benetton:
Tries: Mendy 2
Con: Umaga
Pens: Umaga 2

Teams:

Leinster: 15 Henry McErlean, 14 Tommy O’Brien, 13 Liam Turner, 12 Jamie Osborne, 11 Rob Russell, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Scott Penny (captain), 6 Will Connors, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Thomas Clarkson, 2 Lee Barron, 1 Jack Boyle.
Replacements: 16 John McKee, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Michael Ala’alatoa, 19 Brian Deeny, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Ben Murphy, 22 Sam Prendergast, 23 Ben Brownlee.

Benetton: 15 Jacob Umaga, 14 Ignacio Mendy, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Onisi Ratave, 10 Tomas Albornoz, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Henry Time-Stowers, 7 Toa Halafihi, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Eli Snyman (captain), 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Siua Maile, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Riccardo Favretto, 20 Alessandro Izekor, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Leonardo Marin, 23 Filippo Drago.

Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Eoghan Cross (Ireland), Tomas O’Sullivan (Ireland)
TMO: Colin Brett (Scotland)

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