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Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

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Preview: Benetton vs Connacht Rugby

Will Thompson 23 Feb 2018
Naulia Dawai, Connacht

Benetton look to extend their winning streak to six games as they take on Connacht at Stadio Monigo in Round 16.

Connacht will be eager not to suffer defeat at the hands of an Italian side again in the Guinness PRO14, having lost 11-19 at home to Zebre in the last round.

What’s at stake?

Benetton are arguably the form side in Conference B, with an 18-15 victory over Dragons last time out setting a new club record of consecutive wins.

The Italians currently lie in fifth in the table, only eight points off Ulster in fourth, and head coach Kieran Crowley will be optimistic of hunting down a European spot considering their current form.

Connacht are even closer to European rugby next season, sitting fifth in Conference A just five points off Cardiff Blues in fourth.

With only five league games left before the play-offs, every game is a must-win now for both teams if they want to make it into the top half of their respective tables.

Team news (Benetton)

Ian McKinley drops out due to injury and is replaced at full back by Luca Sperandio, whilst Andrea Bronzini fills his position on the wing.

Also unavailable is Tizano Pasquali, having been called up to the Italian bench to face France in the Six Nations, so Matteo Zanusso moves over to replace him and Federico Zani comes in at loose head prop.

Riccardo Brugnara and Michael Tagicakibau come onto the bench for the game against Connacht.

Team news (Connacht)

Flanker Jarrad Butler and prop Denis Buckley have returned to the Connacht side for Round 16.

Tiernan O’Halloran, who missed the game against Zebre last week with a short-term injury, is also back in Kieran Keane’s starting XV.

The squad is also boosted by the return of Niyi Adeolokun from Injury and Ultan Dillane from international duty, with both named among the replacements.

Talking points

Speaking ahead of the match, head coach Kieran Keane said: “We have a number of players coming back from injury which will be a big boost against Treviso on Saturday.

“They are on a great run of wins and I’m sure they will be targeting us especially when they have been so competitive at home this season.

“The majority of the squad will travel on to South Africa, but we have put plans in place for replacements to join the squad after the game in Italy.

“These two games will really test the depth of our squad and we will need to be at our best if we want to win them.”

Key battle – Marty Banks vs Jack Carty

Man-of-the-match Marty Banks effectively won the game for Benetton against Dragons last weekend by slotting two second-half penalties.

The Italians went into half time 15-12 down after Liam Belcher put the hosts into the lead, but Marty Banks’ composure from the tee saw them draw level and then take the lead with 10 minutes to play.

Connacht’s flyhalf Jack Carty also has a trusty boot, having scored more penalties than anyone else this season in the Guinness PRO14 (20), setting up an intriguing battle of the 10s.

Key stat: Connacht’s Tom Farrell not only has made the most off-loads in the Guinness PRO14 so far this season (34), but he has also beaten more defenders than anyone else as well (48).

Did you know? Both teams’ head coaches in this fixture played for New Zealand, but missed playing in the same team by only a few years, as Kieran Keane played his last game for the nation in 1979, whereas Kieran Crowley played his first game in 1983.

Benetton: Luca Sperandio, Andrea Bronzini, Tommaso Iannone, Luca Morisi, Monty Ioane, Marty Banks, Tito Tebaldi, Federico Zani, Tomas Baravalle, Matteo Zanusso, Marco Lazzaroni, Irné Herbst, Alberto Sgarbi (C), Marco Barbini, Whetu Douglas.

Replacements: Hame Faiva, Riccardo Brugnara, Cherif Traore, Marco Fuser, Nasi Manu, Giorgio Bronzini, Marco Zanon, Michael Tagicakibau.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (C).

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Denis Coulson, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.

Referee: Lloyd Linton (SRU)
Assistants:
Eddie Hogan (IRFU), Oisin Quinn (IRFU)
Citing Commissar:
Alberto Recaldini (FIR)
TMO:
Stefano Roscini (FIR)

TV: Eurosport Italia: 12:55, TG4: 11:55

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start from just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Connacht edge to narrow win and halt Benetton’s winning run

Phil Jones 24 Feb 2018

A second-half revival from Connacht Rugby saw the Irish side halt Benetton in their tracks and bring their five-game winning run to a close.

With three tries apiece there was never much between the two sides but a yellow card for Tomasso Iannone with ten minutes to play proved the catalyst for Connacht’s win.

Tito Tebaldi had given Benetton the lead late in the first half but Finlay Bealham hit back minutes after the break.

Monty Ioane extended Benetton’s lead but Jarrad Butler responded almost immediately for Connacht, with Jack Carty then kicking the penalty after Iannone’s yellow and Eoin Griffin’s score meaning Marco Fuser’s effort with the clock in the red was only good enough for a bonus point.

Carty missed an early penalty for Connacht after Benetton were penalised for not rolling away at the ruck.

And another opportunity went by the wayside before ten minutes were up, with Carty placed a cross-kick to the left corner but Griffin could not quite reach it in time to gather and dot down.

After early Connacht pressure the home side worked their way back into the game and, but for a fine tackle from Matt Healy in the 20th minute, Luca Sperandio would have gone in at the right corner for the opening score of the game.

The remainder was a half characterised by turnovers and stoppages for injuries, punctuated by a blitzing run from Ioane into the Connacht half.

And after several phases of play a Benetton lineout from the left set up a maul from which scrum-half Tebaldi darted over from five yards – suffering a knock to the leg in the process.

Tebaldi limped off after Marty Banks kicked the conversion the half ended with the home side seven to the good.

The second half began with Connacht pressure and a kick to the corner set up a lineout drive that saw Bealham bundle over for the score – Carty missing the conversion and the chance to level the scores with 35 minutes to play.

With the half looking to be heading the same way as the first, Banks put in a cross-field kick from his own half, which Ioane collected to run 60 yards down the left touchline for a fine score – Banks missing the tough conversion on the hour mark.

That score sparked Connacht into life and a smart offload from Cian Kelleher to Butler, for the flanker to drive home from just inside the Benetton 22 – Carty adding the extras to draw level and set up a tense final 15 minutes.

And with ten minutes to play the decisive moment came with Iannone adjudged to have performed a tip tackle on Tom Farrell, seeing him spend the rest of the match in the bin.

Carty knocked over the resultant penalty and with six minutes to play a Healy break saw him offload to Caolin Blade, before the ball found its way to Griffin for the centre to score the winning try – Carty making sure of the points with the conversion.

But Benetton still had time to claw back a losing bonus point as Fuser broke clear, with the clock in the red, to dive in under the posts – Banks knocking over the conversion to bring the game to a close.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start from just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138