Benetton remain unbeaten in Rainbow Cup
PRO14 RAINBOW CUP REPORT: Benetton enhanced their status as the Pro14 Rainbow Cup’s unlikely pace-setters with a 34-27 victory over Zebre in Treviso.
Having not won a single game during the regular Pro14 season, Benetton are now the only team who can boast a 100 percent winning record following Munster’s defeat to Connacht on Friday.
This bonus-point win, which came courtesy of tries from Toa Halafihi, Monty Ioane, Gianmarco Lucchesi and Edoardo Padovani, sends Kieran Crowley’s men four points clear at the top of the table, with the eventual victors set to meet their South African counterparts in a north-versus-south Final on June 19.
Hanging on to top spot may be a tough ask for Benetton, who host Connacht next before travelling to face the Ospreys in their final fixture, but their back-to-back victories over Zebre and a shock opening win against Glasgow Warriors have given them a platform they could only have dreamed of at the start of the tournament.
Winless Zebre made it a tense finish by reducing the lead from 18 points to four with a pair of late tries from Michelangelo Biondelli and Marcello Violi, but Paolo Garbisi wrapped up the win from the tee. Giovanni D’Onofrio scored Zebre’s other try.
The visitors looked fired up in the early stages but were dealt a blow when they lost their flyhalf to an early injury for the second game in succession, with Antonio Rizzi forced off after 10 minutes following Paolo Pescetto’s premature exit last weekend.
Carlo Canna was again the man to come off the bench and gave Zebre the lead with a penalty after 24 minutes.
The match was struggling for momentum until Benetton produced a wonderful passage of play, keeping the ball moving with a series of impressive offloads to send the in-form Halafihi over in the corner.
A lengthy TMO review followed to determine whether Halafihi had strayed into touch, but the verdict fell in Benetton’s favour and Garbisi added the extras for a 7-3 lead.
Ioane also survived a visit to the TMO as he touched down under pressure soon after, with Garbisi’s conversion making it 14-3 at half-time.
Matteo Liperini was being kept busy in the TMO booth and was again called upon to assist in awarding a D’Onofrio try three minutes after the restart.
Canna added the extras but Benetton quickly restored their cushion when Lucchesi touched down and Garbisi made it 21-10 from the tee.
Canna reduced the deficit by three with a penalty but Padovani’s bonus-point score after 55 minutes felt decisive, as Garbisi’s conversion and a subsequent penalty carried Benetton into an 18-point lead.
Quickfire tries from Biondelli and Violi – along with Canna’s accompanying conversions – had Benetton sweating late on, but Garbisi made sure of the win with a penalty.
Tries: Halafihi, Ioane, Lucchesi, Padovani
Cons: Garbisi 4
Pens: Garbisi 2
Tries: D’Onofrio, Biondelli, Violi
Cons: Canna 3
Pens: Canna 2
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Filippo Alongi, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Ivan Nemer, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Irné Herbst, 20 Manuel Zuliani, 21 Riccardo Favretto, 22 Callum Braley, 23 Ratuva Tavuyara.
Zebre: 15 Michelangelo Biondelli, 14 Alessandro Fusco, 13 Tommaso Boni (captain), 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Giovanni D’Onofrio, 10 Antonio Rizzi, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Lorenzo Masselli, 6 Iacopo Bianchi, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Alexandru Tarus, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Paolo Buonfiglio.
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Samuele Ortis, 20 Potu Junior Leavasa, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Maxime Mbandà.
Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Federico Vedovelli, Filippo Russo (both Italy)
TMO: Matteo Liperini (Italy)