Throwback Thursday: Benetton stun Leinster

Charlie Bennett
16 January 2020

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In their 20 meetings, Benetton Rugby have only beaten Leinster on two occasions so they can be forgiven for perhaps feeling a sense of dread ahead of Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup clash.

The Italian side are already out, with just one win from five games so far, while Leinster look destined for a home quarter-final.

It will undoubtedly take a monumental effort from Benetton to inflict Leister’s first defeat of the season but they have happy memories to fall back on.

It was just under two years ago that they recorded one of their biggest victories, succeeding 17-15 at the fortress RDS Arena.

It was only Benetton’s second-ever win over Leinster and saw them come from 12-5 behind at the interval.

Resilient Benetton

For Leinster, it was a massive match. Beat Benetton and they would have booked themselves a home semi-final in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series, while they arrived on a 14-match winning streak.

Leinster got off to a dream start as the hosts drove forward from a lineout before hooker Richardt Strauss burst into life to dot down with less than seven minutes on the clock, Joey Carbery converting.

But Benetton hit back just four minutes later through an almost identical situation, the visitors attacking from a set-piece and driving with their own relentless maul, eventually walking over the line to allow Luca Bigi to claim an unconverted try.

The scoreline would remain 7-5 for most of the first period as the two teams battled tooth and nail, with the Italians refusing to roll over as their opponents strived for a decisive victory.

But right on the stroke of half-time, Leinster stole a march as Jordan Larmour took flight and fed Barry Daly to crash over in the corner, Carbery unable to add the extras as his team took a seven-point lead into the break.

Awesome Allan

Early in the second half, Leinster set about attempting to increase their advantage as they rapped at the door but the Italians held firm.

They received more than adequate reward for that defensive solidarity in the 50th minute as Tito Tebaldi booted the ball skyward and then Jayden Hayward pounced upon the rebound before expertly offloading to Federico Ruzza, who raced away for his team’s second try of the evening.

Tommaso Allan’s attempted conversion flew wide of the mark as Benetton clawed their way back to within two points.

They were in front shortly afterwards when Allan got his foot to a misplaced Jack McGrath pass, hacked forward and then went over before adding the extras himself to shock the RDS Arena.

It wasn’t long before a Carbery penalty brought Leinster back to within a whisker, though, leaving the contest finely poised.

Despite the visitors having Tebaldi yellow-carded midway through the half, Leinster struggled to break down Benetton, who withstood everything the men in blue threw at them for a famous win.

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