Tebaldi's late strikes help Benetton sink Dragons
PRO14 REPORT: Tito Tebaldi struck a penalty with the last kick of the game as Benetton bounced back after Dragons had fought their way back into the game.
In a classic game of two halves, Benetton sailed into a 26-6 lead at the break thanks to tries from Federico Ruzza, Monty Ioane, Tommaso Allan and Tebaldi.
But tries from Rynard Landman, Jared Rosser and Connor Edwards after the break pushed Dragons into a one-point lead, until Tebaldi held his nerve to slot home the penalty.
Benetton were undefeated at home to Welsh sides in the Guinness PRO14 since losing to Cardiff Blues in November 2016 and they narrowly extended that record.
The Italians started perfectly, with a try after just two minutes, second row Ruzza coasting over two phases after a five-metre line-out.
Dragons reduced the deficit with two penalties from Arwel Robson before Ioane found room out wide to nip in for Benetton’s second score.
The Australian-born winger still had plenty to do when he picked up the ball on the left flank, but an excellent hand off sent Owain Leonard to the floor and he rounded the defence to score.
A few minutes later Benetton had a third, Allan getting in the act after Luca Sperandio had broken down the right wing and converting his own score to move the Italian side into a commanding 19-6 lead.
On the stroke of half-time the Benetton pack were deemed to have been held up after consultation from the TMO and from the resulting scrum, Tebaldi sped down the blindside and in for the bonus-point score.
Substitute Hame Faiva thought he had added a fifth try five minutes into the second half as a Benetton driving maul crashed over, but it was ruled out by the TMO and Dragons hit back with Landman crashing over for a score of their own.
With a spring in their step and looking like a far better side than the one that had come out for the first half, Dragons then grabbed a second try on 62 minutes.
The ball was played through the hands to the left wing and Rosser was there to accelerate away and give Robson a makeable conversion to move them within a converted try of the lead.
Edwards dived over soon afterwards, latching onto Robson’s pass following Landman’s excellent offload from on the floor.
Benetton looked to have missed their chance, twice seeing promising attacks end in handling errors, but right at the death, the scrum-half sent over the penalty and broke Dragons’ hearts.
Tries:Ruzza, Ioane, Allan, Tebaldi
Cons: Allan 3
Tries:Hill, Rosser, Edwards
Cons: Robson 3
Pens: Robson 2
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Marco Barbini, 5 Marco Lazzaroni, 4 Federico Ruzza, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Alessandro Zanni, 20 Sebastian Negri, 21 Nasi Manu, 22 Tommaso Iannone, 23 Marty Banks.
Dragons: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Connor Edwards, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Arwel Robson, 9 Owain Leonard, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Aaron Wainwright, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Cory Hill (captain), 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Gerard Ellis.
Replacements: 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Luke Garrett, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Joe Davies, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Rio Dyer.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Joy Neville (Ireland), Robert O'Sullivan (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)