Benetton Rugby attempt to put their best foot forward once again as they face their first home assignment of the new Guinness PRO14 season.
The Italians roll out the red carpet for Cardiff Blues as they run out in Treviso for the first time in the new 2018-19 campaign, looking to build on their Round One success at the Dragons.
The Blues, however, will attempt to leave a sour taste in Benetton mouths as they look for an immediate response after being edged out by Leinster last time out.
What’s at stake?
In Round Two, Benetton play in front of their home fans at the Stadio Monigo for the first time in 2018-19 and they go looking to set the tone for a successful campaign with a positive start to their home form.
Cardiff Blues, meanwhile, pushed Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster all the way in Round One at Cardiff Arms Park and were undone by a late Ross Byrne try.
They’ve already shown plenty of attacking intent and victory in Treviso would provide a satisfying start to their Conference A campaign.
Team news (Benetton Rugby): As they look to build on an opening day victory over the Dragons in Wales, Benetton Rugby make four personnel changes for their clash with Cardiff Blues.
Luca Morisi comes in at outside centre while Robert Barbieri is named at number eight.
Nicola Quaglio is given a starting berth in the front row while Marco Fuser is promoted from the bench, taking his place in the second row.
Marco Barbini is only named as a replacement while out go Federico Zani, Alessandro Zanni and Alberto Sgarbi.
Team news (Cardiff Blues): Wales internationals Josh Navidi and Gareth Anscombe return to the fray for Cardiff Blues, the pair named as replacements for their side’s trip to the Stadio Monigo.
Flanker Navidi, 27, has not played since injuring his shoulder in the Blues’ European Rugby Challenge Cup final success over Gloucester while Anscombe was rested for as John Mulvhill’s side suffered a dramatic 33-32 loss to Leinster in Round One.
George Earle comes in for Seb Davies, who is ruled out with a knee injury sustained against Leinster, while prop Dillon Lewis – another Welsh international – is also named on the bench.
Key battle: Tommaso Allan v Jarrod Evans
Bennetton and the Blues’ number 10s enjoyed contrasting season bows in Round One.
Both players were kick-perfect from the penalty tee but Tommasso Allan failed with all three of his conversion attempts.
Meanwhile, Evans successfully booted three conversions – if fine margins decide this contest, could accurate kicking prove decisive?
Key stat: Cardiff Blues have won their last eight matches against Italian opposition.
Did you know?: Benetton Rugby have never begun a season with victories in both Round One and Round Two.
Benetton Rugby: J Hayward, R Tavuyara, T Benvenuti, L Morisi, M Ioane, T Allan, T Tebaldi, R Barbieri, S Negri, A Steyn, D Budd (C), M Fuser, T Pasquali, H Faiva, N Quaglio
Replacements: E Makelara, C Traore, S Ferrari, I Herbst, M Lazzaroni, M Barbini, D Duvenage, M Zanon
Cardiff Blues: M Morgan J Harries, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, O Lane, J Evans, L Williams, B Thyer, K Dacey, D Arhip, G Earle, R Thornton, J Turnbull, E Jenkins (C), N Williams
Replacements: E Lewis, R Gill, D Lewis, J Navidi, ORobinson, T Williams, G Anscombe, G Smith
TV: At Stadio Monigo, Treviso, 7.35pm. Live on DAZN and FreeSports
Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU, 10th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU), Gianluca Gnecchi (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: TBC
TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR)
Tommaso Allan nailed a nerveless conversion with the last kick of the game to secure Benetton Rugby a last-gasp victory against Cardiff Blues.
Monty Ioane dived over in the corner for a score-tying try while two Blues in the sin-bin for scrum infringements, and Allan sent his conversion from out wide down the middle.
It marks the first time Benetton have ever won the first two games of a Guinness PRO14 season and the players and fans celebrated wildly when Allan’s kick sailed through.
Benetton began confidently after last weekend’s win at the Dragons, with outside centre Luca Morisi particularly influential, as they bid to start the season with two straight wins for the first time in their history.
Allan got the ball rolling with an early penalty but the Blues also looked dangerous with only an unlucky bounce of the ball denying Willis Halaholo a try-scoring chance.
Benetton were vulnerable out wide and the Blues almost got through, with Nick Williams touching down in the corner following a patient move through the phases. However, the TMO ruled it out.
The Blues levelled with a penalty of their own but Benetton got the first try of the match with Allan touching down at the back of the end zone following a Tito Tebaldi chip.
Cardiff have not lost to Italian opposition in eight attempts and were hardly going to go away here.
They levelled things with a penalty try thanks some superb scrummaging from Kristian Dacey.
Evans added two more penalties before the break to give them a six-point lead and send the hosts in deflated at the break.
Sebastian Negri got the hosts’ first try after the break following a release from Jayden Hayward and Allan converted to put them one point ahead.
Two Evans penalties, plus a further effort from Gareth Anscombe, swung it the Blues’ way until the dramatic conclusion.
Benetton lay siege to the Blues try line, with scrum after scrum resulting in penalties. Olly Robinson and Rhys Gill were both sent to the bin but the referee refrained from calling a penalty try.
But eventually Benetton moved it left where Ioane scored and Allan nailed the conversion.