Lowe stars as Leinster beat Benetton
PRO14 REPORT: James Lowe's debut double helped power Leinster to an impressive away victory over Benetton, keeping up the pressure on Scarlets at the top of Conference B.
Benetton opened the scoring through the boot of Tommaso Allan but Leinster fired back with a debut try for Lowe, backed up by a score for Jordi Murphy.
The men from Treviso rallied after the break with Ignacio Brex's try, but the visitors immediately responded with an effort from centre Garry Ringrose, making his first appearance of the season following shoulder surgery.
Ringrose's score was a dagger to the Italians' chances, with further tries from captain Luke McGrath and Lowe's second capping off a comprehensive away performance.
Leinster started the game aiming to overtake Ulster Rugby in Conference B and make up some ground on top-of-the-table Scarlets.
But the Italians started with impressive energy and got their reward on seven minutes when Allan kicked a penalty from just to the right of the posts.
The men from Dublin found their feet though and Lowe soon had his first try for the province following a kick to the corner from Byrne – the New Zealander storming over the line at irresistible pace.
Scott Fardy was causing havoc in the line-out and Byrne kicked a three-pointer before Murphy got the visitor's second try on 32 minutes, with a little help from centre Ringrose.
Byrne converted the second score to give the away side a 17-3 half-time lead but Benetton enjoyed a concerted spell of pressure after the interval, bombarding the Leinster line until Brex powered over from three metres out.
The men in blue were in no mood to get into an arm-wrestle though and breaks from Luke McGrath and Lowe created an opportunity for Ringrose to jink his way over in the corner on 61 minutes – Byrne again adding the extras.
Lowe then had a big hand in the bonus-point try, the bulky wing again finding space down the left-hand side before passing inside to skipper McGrath to run in from 40 metres out.
Leinster began to take over the game and Lowe soon had his second try of the night after collecting an excellent pass from Noel Reid, stepping his opposite man to go over in the corner.
The Italian side pressed hard in the final ten minutes to get something out of the game, but the Leinster defence had proved resolute all afternoon, led by the returning Josh van der Flier, and saw out the match with relative comfort.
Tries: Lowe 2, Murphy, Ringrose, McGrath
Cons: Byrne 4
Yellow card: Ignacio Brex (Benetton, 61)
Benetton: 15 Marty Banks, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 11 Luca Sperandio, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Giorgio Bronzini, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Nasi Manu, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Irné Herbst, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Cherif Traore.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Alberto De Marchi, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Sebastian Negri, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 Luca Morisi.
Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Noel Reid, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Ian Nagle, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 James Tracy, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Vakh Abdaladze, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Fergus McFadden, 23 Rory O’Loughlin.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Manuel Bottino (Italy)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)