Cardiff Blues 34 - 24 Benetton Rugby
HT 7-19
Sun 23 February 17:15 Cardiff Arms Park Ref: Frank Murphy Guinness PRO14

Cardiff Blues 34 Benetton Rugby 24

Sun 23 Feb 2020 18:50 Cardiff Blues 34 Benetton Rugby 24

Cardiff Blues completed an impressive comeback at the Arms Park to complete a hard-fought double over Guinness PRO14 rivals Benetton Rugby.

The Blues claimed a dramatic injury time victory over the Treviso based outfit in November and they recovered from a slow start to snatch the spoils once more.

Despite a Jason Harries try, where the hosts capitalised on an error from the visitors, they trailed by 12 points at the interval.

But they turned on the style in the second-half with tries from Garyn Smith, Ryan Edwards, Seb Davies and Lewis Jones to secure a bonus-point win.

The five points brings them back within a point of fourth placed Connacht, as the hunt for a top three finish continues.

Cardiff Blues' campaign continues next week with a trip to the Scottish capital to take on Conference B rivals Edinburgh.

Benetton opened the scoring shortly after 10 minutes when Monty Ioane sliced through the Blues defence on the left and put Ian Keatley away.

The fly-half was unable to convert the score but he made no mistake when the Italians claimed a second try 10 minutes later.

It was a just reward for Keiran Crowley’s men, who controlled the majority of the opening exchanges and consistently threatened through the likes of Ioane.

While the Australian wing created the first try, it was the pack that made the second as they flexed their forward muscle to power over from close range.

Cardiff Blues almost hit back following a fine break from Hallam Amos. Garyn Smith threaded a kick to the corner, sparking a frenetic period which saw Luca Sperandio race out of his own in goal area but play broke down.

Moments later however, the Blues finally opened their account as they went through the phases and created space on the right with Amos giving the scoring pass to Harries.

Tovey converted expertly from the corner to cut the deficit to five points but the Blues were dealt a critical blow as half-time approached.

Again, it was the powerful Italian pack that laid the foundations and when they went to the left To a Halafihi was on hand to burst through. Keatley added the extras to make it 19-7 at the interval.

Cardiff Blues knew they would have to score first to keep alive any realistic hopes of winning and they did exactly that within five minutes of play resuming.

Josh Turnbull rallied the troops with a barnstorming charge through the middle and not to be outdone, Smith stepped up. The centre had few options as he took the ball into contact but he wriggled and powered through three defenders to claim an unlikely try.

Tovey fired wide but the comeback continued as Wales’ Capital Region claimed a third try 10 minutes later. The Blues were now causing the visitors plenty of problems and they should have scored when Harries broke through the middle but his pass was ever so slightly behind Ben Thomas allowing Benetton to recover.

They remained in the ascent and following a sustained period of pressure which saw Ian Keatley sent to the sin-bin, Tovey threaded a kick to the corner, which loan-signing Ryan Edwards collected in the nick of time to score.

Tovey converted the extras to tie the scores at 19-19 but he was unable to edge his side into the lead with a penalty minutes later.

All of the momentum now appeared with the Blues but Benetton responded from virtually their first opportunity in the half as Halafihi again bulldozed past several defenders for a fine try.

McKinley was unable to convert the score as the visitors remained at 24-19 with the final quarter approaching.

Cardiff Blues had opportunities to cut the deficit but kicked to the corner and left empty-handed as the game appeared to be creeping away from them.

However, as the 70 minute mark approached they broke into the Benetton half with Ben Thomas delivering a beautifully delayed pass to put Amos into space.

The full-back raced deep into the 22 and saw Harries come on the switch before opting to pass to Will Boyde, who was held agonisingly short. But possession was maintained and Seb Davies, virtually slam-dunked the ball onto the try-line, using every inch of his right arm as he was held at bay. 

Tovey levelled the scores and added a penalty with five minutes to spare to open up a five point advantage.

With the final whistle fast approaching, the win was in the bag as the hosts crossed for a fifth. Amos' arching run on the counter released Edwards, who was stopped just short of the whitewash. But scrum half replacement Jones was on hand to snipe over for his fourth try in three matches.