Sun 14 Mar 2021 | 08:19

Blues battle back to stay in Euro race

Blues battle back to stay in Euro race
Sun 14 Mar 2021 | 08:19
Blues battle back to stay in Euro race
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PRO14 MATCH REPORT: Cardiff Blues kept alive their hopes of Champions Cup qualification after fighting back to beat strugglers Benetton 29-14 in Italy.

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The Blues’ bonus-point success put them three points behind third-placed Scarlets in Conference B with one game left.

But they were given a tough battle by Benetton before their hosts ultimately subsided to a 13th successive league defeat this season.

The Blues trailed by 11 points approaching half-time following Benetton tries for powerful wing Ratuva Tavuyara and prop Ivan Nemer, with Italy international Tommaso Allan converting both scores.

The visitors, though, responded through a Keiron Assiratti try after an early Ben Thomas penalty, and they took charge after the break.

Further tries followed for wing Aled Summerhill, prop Corey Domachowski and centre Rey Lee-Lo, with Jarrod Evans kicking three conversions.

Benetton had 13 players unavailable because of Guinness Six Nations commitments, but Allan started after being released by the Italy management.

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The Blues, meanwhile, showed two changes as flanker Olly Robinson returned from injury for a first start since November, while Assiratti featured alongside front-row colleagues Domachowski and Liam Belcher.

Allan needed just 12 minutes to show his quality, providing a strong attacking presence as Benetton dominated the opening exchanges and creating an opening try for Tavuyara.

The Fijian still had plenty to do, but he finished with a one-handed touchdown and Allan converted for a 7-0 lead as the Blues encountered considerable early trouble.

Thomas opened the Blues’ account through a 16th-minute penalty, but he then moved into the centre when his midfield partner Mason Grady limped off after suffering what appeared to be a knee injury.

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Evans, released from the Wales camp for the Blues’ latest league game, replaced Grady and slotted in at flyhalf.

The visitors, though, continued in defensive mode for much of an opening half that Benetton dominated, and their second try arrived four minutes before the interval.

This time it was Nemer who scored, powering over from close range, with the try being awarded by referee Gianluca Gnecchi despite Robinson appearing to get underneath Nemer and prevent a conclusive touchdown.

Allan converted, yet the Blues responded by scoring from their first notable attack, cutting the half-time deficit to four points as Assiratti rounded off a spell of concerted pressure, and Evans converted.

It gave the Blues momentum, and they went ahead just two minutes after the restart following flanker Ellis Jenkins’ midfield surge that created quick ball before Lee-Lo delivered a scoring pass to Summerhill, who finished impressively.

The Blues had dominance for the first time in an attritional encounter, and they claimed a third try 17 minutes from time.

Domachowski was the beneficiary of sustained pressure this time around, and Evans’ conversion took his team eight points clear into the final quarter before Lee-Lo secured a five-point maximum.

Play of the match

Fijian Tavuyara was the dominant figure during a first-half that Benetton controlled, and his contribition was highlighted by a superb 11th-minute try. He still had plenty of work to do after being freed by his team-mates, but Tavuyara’s power and pace did for the Blues defence before he applied a stunning one-handed finish under pressure.

Player of the match

Blues’ Wales international flanker Ellis Jenkins continued his impressive comeback from a knee injury that sidelined him for more than two years with another all-action display. He was at the heart of a strong second-half display by the Blues, featuring prominently in attack, while his tackle count was also prolific.

The scorers

For Benetton
Tries: Ratuva, Nemer
Cons: Allan 2

For Cardiff Blues
Tries: Assiratti, Summerhill, Domachowski, Lee-Lo
Cons: Evans 3
Pen: Thomas

The teams:

Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Riccardo Favretto, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Davide Ruggeri, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Ivan Nemer, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Tomas Baravalle, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Matteo Canali, 20 Giovanni Pettinelli, 21 Alberto Sgarbi, 22 Luca Petrozzi, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Ben Thomas, 9 Jamie Hill, 8 Josh Turnbull (captain), 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Olly Robinson, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Iestyn Harris, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 James Ratti, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Jason Harries.

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi
Assistant referees: Federico Vedovelli, Filippo Russo
TMO: Marius Mitrea

Source: @PRO14Official

PV: 37
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Blues battle back to stay in Euro race | Rugby365