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Benetton continue their dominance in Italy

MATCH REPORT: Benetton maintained their stranglehold on the Italian derby by dispatching Zebre Parma 31-24 in the United Rugby Championship.

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A seventh successive victory in the fixture continues Benetton’s superb start to the season, with their eight league matches producing six wins, a draw and only one defeat.

Zebre began strongly and controlled the final quarter, but outside of these periods their defence was breached far too easily with wing Paolo Odogwu a thorn in their side until he departed injured after the interval.

They could not have wished for a better start when fullback Lorenzo Pani collected a chip through following a line-out and touched down.

The quality of the finish was being matched by the work of the home pack but once Geronimo Prisciantelli had booted a penalty, they allowed Benetton to build a head of steam.

Odogwu sidestepped through the defence to get the attack moving but it was forward power that delivered the points with hooker Bautista Bernasconi driving over from close range.

Zebre’s abysmal defending invited Tommaso Menoncello over for the visitors’ second, although the Italy centre also showed strength to fend off two tackles before switching on the afterburners.

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Jacob Umaga’s first try for Benetton exposed Zebre once again after Rhyno Smith had burst through a gap and it was beginning to look bleak for the blue shirts.

A yellow card shown to scrum-half Gonzalo Garcia for a dangerous challenge further eroded their position and when Odogwu gathered a long pass to leap over in the 45th minute they had a mountain to climb.

Benetton No.8 Toa Halafihi followed Garcia into the sinbin for bringing down a maul and twice Zebre were kept out by turnovers from Michele Lamaro on the whitewash.

Benetton were pinned in their 22 for the remainder of the match and conceded tries to Jacopo Bianchi and Leonard Krumov, but they had already done enough.

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Man of the match: It was on the strength of his scripted comeback that Tommaso Menoncello was named man of the match. Menoncello’s last moments on a rugby field was in August and it saw him depart Lansdowne Road in tears in realisation his World Cup was over, but the 21-year-old with a bright future was all smiles at the Sergio Lanfranchi Stadium.

The scorers:

For Zebre:
Tries: Pani, Bianchi, Krumov
Cons: Prisciantelli 3
Pen: Prisciantelli

For Benetton:
Tries: Bernasconi, Menocello, Umaga, Odogwu
Cons: Umaga 4
Pen: Umaga

Yellow cards: Gonzalo Garcia (Zebre, 42′ foul play, dangerous tackle); Toa Halafihi (Benetton, 50′ – repeated infringements, collapsing maul); Siua Maile (Benetton, 80′)

Teams:

Zebre: 15 Lorenzo Pani, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Fetuli Paea, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Simone Gesi, 10 Geronimo Prisciantelli (captain), 9 Gonzalo Garcia, 8 Davide Ruggeri, 7 Giacomo Ferrari, 6 Guido Volpi, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 David Sisi, 3 Juan Pitinari, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Luca Rizzoli, 18 Matteo Nocera, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Iacopo Bianchi, 21 Alessandro Fusco, 22 Giovanni Montemauri, 23 Luca Morisi.

Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Paolo Odogwu, 13 Tommaso Menoncello, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Onisi Ratave, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Edoardo Iachizzi, 3 Giosué Zilocchi, 2 Bautista Bernasconi, 1 Mirco Spagnolo.
Replacements: 16 Siua Maile, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Riccardo Favretto, 20 Henry Time-Stowers, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Leonardo Marin, 23 Edoardo Padovani.

Referee: Filippo Russo (Italy)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Matteo Liperini (Italy)

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