Connacht halt Benetton's run
PRO14 REPORT: A second-half revival from Connacht saw the Irish side halt Benetton in their tracks and bring their five-game winning run to a close.
With three tries apiece there was never much between the two sides but a yellow card for Tommaso Iannone with ten minutes to play proved the catalyst for Connacht’s win.
Tito Tebaldi had given Benetton the lead late in the first half but Finlay Bealham hit back minutes after the break.
Monty Ioane extended Benetton’s lead but Jarrad Butler responded almost immediately for Connacht, with Jack Carty then kicking the penalty after Iannone’s yellow and Eoin Griffin’s score meaning Marco Fuser’s effort with the clock in the red was only good enough for a bonus point.
Carty missed an early penalty for Connacht after Benetton were penalised for not rolling away at the ruck.
And another opportunity went by the wayside before ten minutes were up, with Carty placed a cross-kick to the left corner but Griffin could not quite reach it in time to gather and dot down.
After early Connacht pressure the home side worked their way back into the game and, but for a fine tackle from Matt Healy in the 20th minute, Luca Sperandio would have gone in at the right corner for the opening score of the game.
The remainder was a half characterised by turnovers and stoppages for injuries, punctuated by a blitzing run from Ioane into the Connacht half.
And after several phases of play a Benetton line-out from the left set up a maul from which scrum-half Tebaldi darted over from five yards - suffering a knock to the leg in the process.
Tebaldi limped off after Marty Banks kicked the conversion the half ended with the home side seven to the good.
The second half began with Connacht pressure and a kick to the corner set up a line-out drive that saw Bealham bundle over for the score - Carty missing the conversion and the chance to level the scores with 35 minutes to play.
With the half looking to be heading the same way as the first, Banks put in a cross-field kick from his own half, which Ioane collected to run 60 yards down the left touchline for a fine score - Banks missing the tough conversion on the hour mark.
That score sparked Connacht into life and a smart offload from Cian Kelleher to Butler, for the flanker to drive home from just inside the Benetton 22 - Carty adding the extras to draw level and set up a tense final 15 minutes.
And with ten minutes to play the decisive moment came with Iannone adjudged to have performed a tip tackle on Tom Farrell, seeing him spend the rest of the match in the bin.
Carty knocked over the resultant penalty and with six minutes to play a Healy break saw him offload to Caolin Blade, before the ball found its way to Griffin for the centre to score the winning try - Carty making sure of the points with the conversion.
But Benetton still had time to claw back a losing bonus point as Fuser broke clear, with the clock in the red, to dive in under the posts - Banks knocking over the conversion to bring the game to a close.
Tries:Tebaldi, Ioane, Fuser
Cons: Banks 2
Tries: Bealham, Butler, Griffin
Cons: Carty 2
Yellow card: Tommaso Iannone (Benetton, 69)
Benetton: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Andrea Bronzini, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Marco Barbini, 6 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 5 Irné Herbst, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Matteo Zanusso, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Nasi Manu, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Marco Zanon, 23 Michael Tagicakibau.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Tom Farrell, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 James Cannon, 4 Gavin Thornbury, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Niyi Adeolokun.
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Eddie Hogan-O'Connell (Ireland), Oisin Quinn (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)