Benetton deliver late blow to Connacht in Italy

Benetton 18

Connacht: 14

Connacht did themselves no favours in their bid to make the URC play-offs when succumbing to a battling Benetton in the final minute of play.

With the game on the line, Connacht almost secured an important away victory in Treviso.  Having taken the lead in the 73rd minute for the first time, they then allowed Benetton to produce one final salvo.

It was not spectacular, but Alessandro Izekor delivered the final blow as Connacht’s poor defence out wide proved costly.

 It was always going to be difficult against an Italian team of internationals, yet Connacht produced a performance of huge physicality, and put themselves in position to maintain their push for the play-offs when taking a scoring a 73rd minute try.

It had come through a concerted multiple-phase attack, led by replacement Jarrad Butler, and eventually it was Cian Prendergast who bagged his fifth try of the season, and the victory for Pete Wilkins’ side looked assured.

“We worked so hard to put ourselves in a positive position,” says Wilkins. “The effort and fight was exactly what this club is about and that is our benchmark. We don’t drop from that kind of intensity and work ethic, and if we ensure that is the case, we will be in the play-offs and we will control our destiny."

Evenly balanced for the entire game, neither side was convincing, but with 11 teams bidding for the top eight spots, this is one result Connacht could well regret.

All the early pressure came from the home side, prompted by two scrum reversals for Connacht, and within eight minutes they had delivered a try. A skip pass from outhalf Jacob Umaga found right wing Argentinian international Ignacio Mendy who finished off before Umaga added three points from a penalty.

Despite enjoying territorial and possession advantage, Connacht struggled to break down the Italian defence until late in the half when they produced two strong passages. Eventually from a penalty to touch Niall Murray secured possession, and delayed pass from scrumhalf McDonald sent Niall Murray over, and Jack Carty converted for a 10-7 half-time score.

Both sides spurned chances in the second half with Carty missing a penalty, but when Umago stretched the lead to 13-7 when Connacht were pinged for not releasing, it kickstarted one of Connacht’s best attacking. They were rewarded when Prendergast bagged what looked like a winning try.

Alas it was Benetton who produced the perfect finish - Alessandro Izekor found space out wide to make Connacht’s play-off hopes that much more difficult. 

Benetton: R Smith, I Mendy, T Menoncello, I Brex, O Ratave, J Umaga, A Garbisi, TGallo, G Nicotera, Giosuè Zilocchi, Niccolò Cannone, Eli Snyman (CAPT ), A Izekor, M Lamaro, Toa Halafihi. Replacements: L Cannone for Lamaro (25m ), A Uren for Garbisi (45m ), B Bernasconi for Nicotera (48 ), M Spagnolo for Gallo (55 ), T Pasquali for Zilocchi (59m ),F Ruzza Cannone (64 )m, T Albornoz, M Fekitoa for Menoncello (71 ), T Albornoz for Smith (76 ).

Connacht: T O’Halloran, D Kilgallen, D Hawkshaw, C Forde, Andrew Smith, Jack Carty (CAPT ), Michael McDonald, Jordan Duggan, Dave Heffernan, Jack Aungier, Niall Murray, Joe Joyce, Cian Prendergast, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Paul Boyle Replacements: Shayne Bolton for Kilgallen (16m ), Colm Reilly for McDonald (45 ), Shane Jennings for Forde, Sam Illo for Aungier, Denis Buckley for Duggan and Darragh Murray for Joyce (all 53 ), Jarrad Butler for Boyce (59 ) and Eoin de Buitléar for Heffernan (68 ).

Referee: M Ferrari (SA ).


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