Can Benetton reach the Guinness PRO14 Finals Series? Here’s what they need to do

Kumail Jaffer
03 April 2019

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As the business end of the season approaches, teams are fighting harder than ever to reach the coveted Guinness PRO14 Final.

With the tension building in Conference B, four sides are competing for just two remaining knock-out spots in an intriguing race.

And with Italian club Benetton Rugby in the thick of the action, here’s the breakdown of their chances to go the distance.

What does their remaining schedule look like?

With just three games to go, Benetton know they cannot afford a slip-up as Edinburgh and Scarlets sit perilously close behind them.

The club sits in third place on 50 points – four behind Ulster, five ahead of fifth-placed Scarlets and just three clear of Edinburgh.

Kieran Crowley’s men face a trip to Conference B leaders Leinster – who are fresh off a Champions Cup quarter-final win – in Round 19, looking to repeat their win in Dublin of a year ago.

The schedule doesn’t get more forgiving – after navigating that, they then host in-form Munster, who sit second in Conference A.

And the season ends for Benetton as they face Italian rivals Zebre – fans will have that circled as a must-win derby.

Benetton’s run-in:

R19: Leinster (A), Saturday April 6, 19:45

R20: Munster Rugby (H), Friday April 12, 19:00

R21: Zebre Rugby Club (A), Saturday April 27, 15:00

Who are going to be the difference-makers if Benetton can reach the Guinness PRO14 Final Series?

Benetton have been a powerful unit during this year’s tournament – their 57-7 victory against Dragons exemplified their prowess on both ends of the field.

Winger Monty Ioane has played his part – 28 offloads tops the Guinness PRO14, while he also has 19 clean breaks, beaten 50 defenders and notched four tries in a wonderful season for the 24-year-old.

Benetton can also credit Antonio Rizzi – the young fly-half has kept things ticking over well with 42 points (including three tries), 102 passes and 22 tackles.

The power of Braam Steyn has helped the Italian side all over the pitch – his 90 tackles, 87 carries and four tries have given opposition sides something else to worry about now that he is back from international duty.

With the whole team buying into Crowley’s philosophy, players from all areas of the pitch will need to step up if Benetton are going to avoid a repeat of last year, where they agonisingly missed out on a European play-off spot.

What’s the ‘must-win’ game for Benetton Rugby?

While an away trip to Leinster may prove too much for Benetton, they must be on top of their game when facing Munster in Treviso.

If the Italian side were to lose this Saturday, they could potentially sit in fourth after Edinburgh and Scarlets’ matchup this weekend.

But picking up two wins in their final two fixtures might be enough to see them through to the postseason.

They’ll need to put in a real defensive shift, however, with Munster having shown last weekend against Edinburgh just how tough a nut they are to crack.

Can Benetton go all the way if they reach the Guinness PRO14 Final series?

Benetton are yet to make the Final Series since joining the league back in 2010 – and with a potential trip to Limerick or Glasgow if they finish third, it would be a tough road to the final destination.

But with the team looking like it has gelled, a mix of youth and experience could provide the materials for a Guinness PRO14 shock.

If they manage to beat Leinster and Munster in their next two games, it will give them the momentum to go deep into the tournament and – perhaps – become the first Italian team to win it all.

The Guinness PRO14 Final is one of the most entertaining games in the rugby calendar and takes place in Glasgow’s Celtic Park on May 25. Tickets start at just £25 for adults, £1 for kids. Visit www.pro14rugby.org/finaltickets

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