Match report: Benetton Rugby 25 Leinster Rugby 37
Match report: Benetton Rugby 25 Leinster Rugby 37
October 10, 2020 / Ryan Corry
It took James Ryan’s short-range drive in the 78th minute to clinch a bonus-point victory against battling Benetton in the Guinness PRO14 at Stadio Monigo on a balmy Saturday evening.
The Italians have often proved a difficult proposition for the champions in Treviso and this was no different.
Initially, a bout of keep-ball stretched Benetton, Ed Byrne popping up in the outside channel before hooker Epalahame Faiva was penalised for a late tackle into the ribs of Ross Byrne and the Leinster outhalf struck for the opening penalty in the third minute.
Tight-head Michael Bent walked to the touchline for 20-year-old Tom Clarkson to make his entry as a temporary arrangement just as Benetton number eight Toa Halafihi snatched a penalty allowing Paolo Garbisi to level it from the left in the fifth minute.
Prop Tizano Pisquali dropped his knee to the ground, under pressure from loose-head Ed Byrne, for Ross Byrne to nail his second shot at goal in reply.
Ryan Baird’s exemplary work to ruin a Benetton maul and soaring take from James Tracy’s throw were the basis for fine field position, wing Iliesa Ratuva’s one-handed slap down seen as deliberate by referee Ben Whitehouse for a yellow card.
However, the home side went to the maul and Leinster’s back division strayed offside on the 40-metre line, Garbisi splitting the posts with ease in the 15th minute.
Pressure applied from Ross Byrne’s restart forced a scrum out of Halafihi inside the 22. Scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park was the architect of a quick-moving attack which drew a penalty for Byrne to go for the corner.
Tracy found Baird again in the air and the hooker was in the textbook position to benefit from a maul from five metres out for his ninth career try, Byrne angling the conversion for 13-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Gibson-Park was eager to keep the tempo up, taking a quick throw-in from Jayden Hayward’s punt. James Lowe was stopped in his tracks and Gibson-Park launched a garryowen Tracy could not contain, Halafihi hacking the ball and clamping down on the retreating Hugo Keenan to claim a penalty.
Benetton followed Leinster’s example in going to the corner, Baird giving away a penalty for his sack on Sebastian Negri, James Ryan compounding this with another indiscretion for a yellow card.
This time, Baird intervened to take hooker Faiva’s throw, only for Leinster to be driven over for the concession of a 5-metre scrum.
There was yet another penalty on the way when Benetton’s Negri had enough momentum, through Tracy’s tackle, to reach out for the try for Garbisi to tie it up in the 33rd minute.
A Garry Ringrose grubber and Lowe’s corralling of Hayward earned a lineout and Will Connors’ offload was the key ingredient in getting in behind.
Leinster probed patiently, Keenan and Lowe looking to crack the gain line, Robbie Henshaw pressurising Hayward with a kick through on the floor.
The visitors came again, Keenan and Gibson-Park involved before Lowe shot through a hole and beyond Garbisi, Byrne’s conversion taking it out to 20-13, Ryan returning from the bin as the half came to a close.
There was a lot to like about the intensity Benetton brought to the new half, the big men trucking it up and Garbisi carving out an opening.
Leinster’s indiscipline came back to haunt them again, Benetton smelling blood from a penalty to go for the corner.
The maul was dominant and hooker Faiva found the whitewash to narrow the deficit to 20-18 in the 47th minute.
Leinster were looking ragged in defence and were soon working without Jordan Larmour who was withdrawn with an injury.
It was turning into a battle for territory and Ross Byrne penned Benetton in with a diagonal ball inside the 22. Gibson-Park repeated the strategy, lock Baird’s counter ruck causing enough havoc to draw a penalty.
They went into their close driving game as Jack Conan had multiple carriers to take play within five metres of the line where Ryan made an uncharacteristic handling error.
The introduction of Cian Healy and Sean Cronin coincided with a scrum penalty and, then, a second shove that concluded with a penalty try when Conan could not apply downward pressure, the automatic conversion taking Leinster two scores clear in the 58th minute.
The impact of Henshaw in contact and in rescuing a dangerous chip was enhanced by inter-play between Keenan and replacement Luke McGrath up the left, Ross Byrne stretching the lead to 30-18 in the 64th minute.
There was a sense it was a big enough advantage for Leinster to see it through to the finish. They still had to be wary of the tackle-beating power of Ratuva on the right and Monty Ioane on the other flank.
A high tackle from James Ryan gave Benetton what they were looking for – a route to the corner flag.
Leinster were illegal against the first maul and, from the second, replacement hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi had the strength to make the line, Garbisi’s extras making it a five-point game in the 75th minute.
A tremendous chase of Ross Byrne’s restart by Jimmy O’Brien forced a lineout and patience was the virtue from which Ryan’s game-winning try accrued, converted by Ross Byrne, in the 78th minute