Leinster and Benetton in thrilling draw
PRO14 REPORT: Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara drove over in added time as his Benetton side drew 27-27 with Leinster in a thrilling fixture which kept the home side’s PRO14 Final Series hopes alive.
A powerful try from Luca Bigi ended the early stalemate before a couple of penalties on either end kept the game competitive going into half time.
James Lowe powered over following a period of pressure from the hosts after the break before Frederico Ruzza dotted down.
Bryan Byrne then scored off the back of a ruck to level things up before Ciaran Frawley took advantage of a rare gap in the Benetton defence – but Tavuyara was on hand to rescue two points for the Italian side.
The high-flying sides were evenly matched in the opening 10 minutes as both struggled to take definitive control of the game.
It took some innovation from Bigi to break the deadlock as he replicated his score against the same opposition last year.
A deep lineout was followed by the hooker driving over after the ball was carried forward in the ensuing maul.
Bigi’s score appeared to open up the pedal floodgates as Leinster hit back instantly thanks to an assured penalty from Noel Reid, before Tomaso Allen restored the seven-point lead with one of his own.
Luke McGrath could count himself unlucky not to dot down for the hosts after a clever dink from winger Joe Tomane just eluded the scrum-half as he broke clear.
Leinster kept the points ticking over thanks to Frawley’s penalty and resisted a powerful Benetton side with some robust defending within their own 5m line – the visitors had to settle for another penalty.
Lowe fired up the home crowd shortly after the break as he powered over the line that Benetton had failed to cross to level up the tie.
Shortly after, Benetton reaped the rewards of their hard running with a deserved try from Ruzza after plentiful phases wore down a tired defence.
But like they have done all season, the Irish outfit roared back into contention as Byrne crossed off the back of a maul.
Frawley then capped off a wonderful performance off the bench to speed over the line as he appeared to rescue an unlikely win for Leinster.
But Tavuyara’s score was no more than Benetton deserved as the winger took advantage of some brilliant off-loading to dot down his fourth try of the campaign.
Tries: Frawley, Lowe, Byrne
Cons: Frawley 3
Pens: Reid, Frawley
Tries: Bigi, Ruzza, Ratuva Tavuyara
Cons: Allan 3
Pens: Allan 2
Leinster: 15 Barry Daly, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Conor O’Brien, 12 Joe Tomane, 11 James Lowe, 10 Noel Reid, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Max Deegan, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 James Tracy, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Jack Dunne, 20 Scott Penny, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Jimmy O’Brien
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Marco Zanon, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan (captain), 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Derrick Appiah, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Giovanni Pettinelli, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Alberto Sgarbi
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)