Leinster Rugby fell to a fifth Guinness PRO14 defeat of the season at home to Benetton Rugby on Saturday evening.
The Italians came to the RDS Arena aiming to keep their hopes of Champions Cup qualification alive, with Leo Cullen’s men knowing that two more points from the final two rounds of regular season games would definitively guarantee top spot in Conference B and a home semi-final.
The defeat means that Leinster now lead Scarlets by five points at the top of the Conference with a game away to Connacht on 28th April still to come.
To catch Leinster, Scarlets would need the province to take nothing from the Connacht match and win with a bonus point against Dragons at their Judgement Day VI fixture. They would also need their points difference (currently +138) to surpass Leinster’s (+264).
On Saturday, Richardt Strauss scored the game’s opening try from a lineout maul, with Benetton also using the power of their front eight to strike back four minutes later. Barry Daly got Leinster’s second before the break to give the province a seven-point lead.
The visitors made a strong start to the second period, however, with two tries in the space of four minutes from Federico Ruzza and Tommaso Allan.
Joey Carbery added a penalty for Leinster to narrow the margin to two but the Italians saw out the final quarter of the game to claim their 11th win of the season in the Championship.
Focus shifts back to European competition this week as Leinster take on Scarlets in the Champions Cup Semi-Finals this Saturday at Aviva Stadium (KO 3.30pm).