Benetton extend unbeaten run in Pro14
PRO14 REPORT: Antonio Rizzi’s second-half try extended Benetton’s unbeaten run in the Pro14 to seven games as they overcame Conference B rivals Edinburgh 18-10.
The Italian outfit went into the game in second place, with a four-point advantage over fourth-placed Edinburgh the race for the Pro14 Final Series.
And a topsy-turvy encounter in Treviso saw the lead change hands multiple times, with Edinburgh taking the lead twice through a Jaco van der Walt penalty and James Johnstone’s try.
But Benetton are unbeaten in the Pro14 since November and second-half scores from Niccolo Cannone and Rizzi proved enough to earn them another win.
The significance of the match was clear for all to see in the first half at Stadio Monigo as neither side was able to find the opening try of the game before the interval.
Edinburgh were first to get on the scoreboard with an early penalty after three minutes, with van der Walt splitting the uprights from 40m to give the visitors the lead.
Their Italian hosts responded with their first spell of pressure as Ian McKinley orchestrated a backline attack deep in the Edinburgh 22 but Richard Cockerill’s side remained resilient.
In fact, defence continued to rule the roost on both sides before Benetton levelled up the scores on the half hour, McKinley converting the three points in front of the posts.
With the momentum in their favour, Benetton almost took the lead after they appeared to score the first try just before half-time, only to see it chalked off for a forward pass.
It remained all square at the break after a bruising opening 40 minutes in Treviso, but the breakthrough finally came six minutes after the restart.
The hosts hit the front for the first time after second-row Cannone muscled over the whitewash from a few metres out, with McKinley successful adding the extras.
Benetton’s lead did not last long, though, as Edinburgh hit back with their opening try of the game on 53 minutes through Johnstone, with van der Walt converting.
Edinburgh went through the phases with several pick-and-goes before finding Johnstone, who showed quick footwork and cut through the Benetton defensive line to score.
But just as Edinburgh looked to be stamping their authority on the match, Benetton responded with their second try through replacement Rizzi.
The hosts went through the phases and after an offside gave Benetton a penalty advantage, a grubber from Monty Ioane was pounced upon by Rizzi for the try.
Rizzi stepped up to convert the score to make it 15-10 with ten minutes remaining, before the flyhalf sealed the victory at the death with a penalty after a frantic end to the game.
Tries: Cannone, Rizzi
Pens: McKinley, Rizzi
Con: Van der Walt
Pen: Van der Walt
Benetton: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Marco Zanon, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Giovanni Pettinelli, 6 Marco Lazzaroni, 5 Niccolò Cannone, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Derrick Appiah, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Robert Barbieri, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.
Edinburgh: 15 Tom Brown, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Jack Blain, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos (captain), 8 Ally Miller, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Luke Crosbie, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 WP Nel, 2 David Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Senitiki Nayalo, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Mark Bennett.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Kieran Barry (Ireland)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)