Blues' win narrows Cheetahs' lead
Four tries for the hosts saw them claim a valuable bonus-point as they cut the ten-point gap to Cheetahs, who sit third in Conference A.
However, despite slipping to back-to-back defeats, Benetton showed a huge amount of fight and picked up a losing bonus-point with Ian McKinley’s late try reduced the final score to 31-25.
Benetton started the brighter of the two sides and an early scrum penalty gave fly-half Marty Banks the opportunity to open the scoring in the fourth minute of the game, which had previously fallen victim to ‘The Beast from the East’.
Gethin Jenkins then came agonisingly close for the Blues after charging down an attempted clearance from Banks – in almost a repeat of his famous try for Wales in the 2005 Grand Slam victory against Ireland.
This time his pursuit of the ball ended in disappointment as the ball went dead before Banks added to Benetton’s lead with another penalty down the other end.
A scrappy encounter eventually came to life on the half-hour mark when Matthew Morgan, on his return after two months out with a hip injury, cut through the visitor’s defence and set Owen Lane away for the first try. Jarrod Evans added the extras.
With their tails now up, Blues soon doubled their advantage following an incisive move which saw Evans break through and find Lloyd Williams, who in turn set up Olly Robinson for the try.
Benetton hit back immediately, though, with scrum-half Giorgio Bronzini charging down Evans’ attempted kick and touching down for a try converted by Banks.
A long-range penalty then allowed Evans to redeem himself for the mistake that led to the try as the Blues took a 17-13 lead into the half-time break.
Cardiff made two changes at the start of the second half, with Welsh internationals Ellis Jenkins and Kristian Dacey coming on for Macauley Cook and Kirby Myhill, respectively.
And Jenkins made an instant impression after anticipating Tomos Williams’ clever chip through before collecting and dotting down under the posts for Blues’ third try.
Evans converted again to extend the hosts’ lead to 24-13, but Benetton bounced back quickly once again as winger Monty Ioane crossed the whitewash and Burns added the extras.
Despite Benetton’s resilience keeping them in the game, Cardiff’s attack continued to find holes in the visitors’ defence and they had a bonus-point try in the 54th minute.
No.8 Nick Williams did the damage, powering over the try line from close range, after namesake Tomos came up short with a quick tap penalty. Evans made no mistake from the tee to restore Cardiff’s 11-point advantage.
It would turn out to be Tomos Williams’ last action in the game as a bang to the head forced him off for a HIA, with the multi-talented flanker Jenkins taking over as makeshift scrum-half.
The Blues were on the backfoot for the last ten minutes as Benetton strived for a losing bonus point and a try came in the final minute as McKinley crashed over from a lineout drive.
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Lane, Robinson, Jenkins, Williams
Cons: Evans 4
Tries: Bronzini, Ioane, Baravalle
Cons: Banks, McKinley
Pens: Banks 2
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Owen Lane, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Gethin Jenkins (captain)
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Rey Lee-Lo
Benetton: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Giorgio Bronzini, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Marco Barbini (captain), 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Irné Herbst, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Matteo Zanusso, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Federico Zani
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Engjel Makelara, 21 Ian McKinley, 22 Alberto Sgarbi, 23 Andrea Bronzini
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Gareth Newman (Wales)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)