Benetton Rugby 28 - 31 Cardiff Blues
HT 15-10
Sat 30 November 15:00 Stadio Comunale di Monigo Ref: Andrew Brace Guinness PRO14

Benetton Rugby 28 Cardiff Blues 31

Sat 30 Nov 2019 18:35 Benetton Rugby 28 Cardiff Blues 31

Cardiff Blues showed heart and character to produce a stunning comeback and secure a dramatic last gasp victory over Benetton Rugby in Treviso.

With a number of senior players missing through injury or international commitments, John Muvihill’s side travelled to Italy with a mix of youth and experience in the matchday 23.

There were only five points in it at the end of the first half at Stadio Monigo, as the hosts bounced back from an early James Botham try, to cross the whitewash twice.

A strong defensive effort from Wales’ Capital Region kept Benetton at bay on numerous occasions and keeping the visitors in the fight.

Allan added an early penalty in the second half, but once again the visitors responded, as skipper Lloyd Williams snuck over in the corner.

A Monty Ioane score opened up some breathing space on the scoreboard once again, before the hosts secured the bonus point through Federico Zani.

Replacement Alun Lawrence added a third for the away side, who impressed in the set piece throughout.

However, with the clock turned red, Rey Lee-Lo’s bust set up replacement wing Jason Harries for a match-winning score, capping off a highly entertaining affair in northern Italy.

Cardiff Blues, who came away with maximum points against their Conference B rivals, head back into Challenge Cup action next week as they prepare for a double header against Pau.

Benetton’s attacking threat was clear to see in the opening 10 minutes, as they piled the pressure on the visiting defence.

The wing duo of Iliesa Tavuyara and Ioane were looking particularly dangerous with ball in hand, but the likes of Matthew Morgan, Will Boyde, Jason Tovey and Lee-Lo all contributed with crucial interventions.

The pressure did eventually lead to the first points of the game, but the hosts had to settle for a Tommaso Allan penalty, after the Blues were penalised for holding on.

A high tackle from Tavuyara on Lee-Lo saw Mulvihill’s side visit the Italians’ 22 for the first time. Hallam Amos made a dangerous break down the left, but his attempted offload was knocked into touch by his opposite number.

The visitors decided to drive the resulting line-out from close range, and were rewarded as Botham dotted down for a try on his first Guinness PRO14 start.

Moments after the play restarted, Tavuyara thundered down the right hand side, and was brought down just short, but the hosts shipped the ball to the opposite wing, where Ioane found himself one-on-one against Josh Turnbull. 

The prolific try scorer did his best to squeeze in at the corner, but the wing had his foot in touch.

However, only moments later, the home side did cross for their first try of the afternoon. A period of pressure on the Cardiff Blues line eventually saw Marco Riccioni power over from close range.

A Tovey penalty brought the scores back level, but the Tavuyara continued to be a thorn in the side of Cardiff Blues. From first phase of a scrum, the Fijian international galloped down the blindside.

Tovey attempted to close down his angle, but the wing had too much pace and power, finishing impressively in the corner.

Allan missed the conversion, but there was one final opportunity for Benetton in the first half. They opted to go for the corner from a penalty, and the driving maul looked destined for the try-line.

However, Macauley Cook was on-hand to steal the ball, allowing captain Williams to kick the ball dead and take the teams into the break with a five point difference.

Allan edged his side further ahead with an early penalty in the second half, but Cardiff Blues responded well.

Morgan spotted a mis-match in midfield, taking on lock Eli Snyman and breaking on the outside. He found support from Lee-Lo, who strided into the 22 and won a penalty.

Tovey went for the corner, and just as it seemed the visitors would attempt another driving line-out, scrum half Williams sniped over in the corner to celebrate his 30th birthday with a try.

Outside half Tovey slotted an impressive conversion from the touchline to bring the score back within a point.

Centres Alberto Sgarbi and Ignacio Brex combined in midfield to send Benetton Rugby back on the attack. 

With his side on the front foot, Allan found space behind, and poked a kick through for Ioane to touch down in the corner and open up a six point lead.

The Italians had a bonus point in the bag moments later. A scrum penalty allowed them to go for the corner, and from the resulting drive Federico Zani had enough to power over as they looked to have the five points secured.

However, the game was set for a dramatic turn in front of the lively Stadio Monigo crowd.

The set-piece was yet again at the heart of the Blues’ third try of the afternoon, and this time it was replacement academy back row, Alun Lawrence, who bagged his first try from the base of a rampant driving maul.

The clock was ticking down and into the red, but there was time for one final attack for the visitors. 

They remained patient as they went through the phases, waiting for a breakthrough.

That breakthrough came from Lee-Lo, who was a stand-out performer all afternoon. His bust broke past the Benetton line, and he had wing Harries in support.

The centre timed his pass to send Harries over unopposed, as Ben Thomas added the extras to put the icing on the cake for Cardiff Blues, who return to European action next week with a double header against Pau.