The final game of the weekend is an intriguing Saturday evening clash between Benetton and Isuzu Southern Kings at Stadio Monigo.
The Italians lie fourth in Conference B after accruing two wins from five matches, while the Kings have just a solitary Guinness PRO14 victory this term, although have also garnered three bonus points in addition to that.
What’s at stake?
The Italian side are looking to bounce back from a heart-wrenching loss to Edinburgh Rugby last time out, where Luca Sperandio’s spectacular hat-trick wasn’t enough to stop them falling to a 31-30 defeat.
They have slipped to three straight losses in the Guinness PRO14, all away from home – their worst run since last December – but triumphed 31-3 and 36-35 in the two clashes between the sides last term.
The Kings are still seeking their first-ever away victory in the competition – having lost all 13 previous road trips in the Championship – but did beat Glasgow Warriors 38-28 a fortnight ago, although that was their only win in the Guinness PRO14 since March.
Team news (Benetton):
Benetton head coach Kieran Crowley has switched things up among his troops by making seven changes to the starting line-up that lost 31-30 to Edinburgh last week.
Just two of those come in the backs as Monty Ioane replaces hat-trick hero Luca Sperandio on the wing and Ignacio Brex is in at outside centre.
A new pair of props will flank hooker Luca Bigi as Nicola Quaglio and Tiziano Pasquali get the nod ahead of last week’s starters Cherif Traore and Marco Riccioni.
An all-new second row sees Alessandro Zanni and Federico Ruzza team up in the engine room, while Braam Steyn comes in for Marco Barbini at openside flanker.
— Benetton Rugby 🦁 (@BenettonRugby) October 5, 2018
Team news (Isuzu Southern Kings):
Head coach Deon Davids has made three changes to the starting XV that will travel to Treviso to tackle Benetton on Saturday evening.
While the backline remains unchanged from the one that faced Scarlets in Llanelli last week, the forwards pack will see two injury-enforced changes and one rotational switch.
Loosehead prop Justin Forwood will get a start following the departure of Schalk Ferreira from the tour, after the experienced 34-year-old sustained a fractured nose in last weekend’s clash.
An ankle injury to Henry “Bakkies” Brown has opened up an opportunity for a first starting berth in over two years for CJ Velleman, who had been on the bench for the Isuzu Southern Kings’ previous two matches.
In a rotational change in the second row, Schalk Oelofse also returns to the starting XV where he will replace Bobby de Wee and partner up with John-Charles Astle at lock.
— Isuzu Southern Kings (@SouthernKingsSA) October 5, 2018
Isuzu Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids said: “We may have been affected by injuries, but we also now have an opportunity to give some of our other players an opportunity to gain starting berths.
“This is a long season and it is important to have depth in our squad. I’m happy to see some of our guys getting opportunities to play, be it starting or coming off the bench.
“Gaining the experience in such a competitive Championship is important.”
Key battle – Braam Steyn v Andisa Ntsila
The game could be decided at the breakdown and a pair of South African-born flankers will square off hoping to give their team the edge.
Andisa Ntsila, twice capped by South Africa A, has impressed for the Kings this term with his 61 tackles the fourth most in the Guinness PRO14 but his 11 defenders beaten also demonstrating a fleetness of foot and dangerousness in the open field.
He’ll come up against one of the most powerful No.7s in the competition on Saturday evening however as Braam Steyn looks to lead Benetton to a third win of the season.
Although born in South Africa, Steyn declared his allegiance to Italy and has won 21 caps for the Azzurri since his 2016 debut – including turning out at No.8 in the tour of Japan this summer.
He allies powerful running with a penchant for lineout steals – having stolen three so far this campaign – and the battle between him and Ntsila will be fascinating to watch.
Key stat: Benetton have won all three previous matches they have played against South African opponents
Did you know? The two sides have met twice before with Benetton victorious, with a try bonus point, on both occasions
Benetton: Jayden Hayward; Ratuva Tavuyara, Ignacio Brex, Luca Morisi, Monty Ioane; Tommaso Allan, Dewaldt Duvenage; Nicola Quaglio, Luca Bigi, Tiziano Pasquali; Alessandro Zanni, Federico Ruzza; Sebastian Negri, Abraham Steyn, Robert Barbieri (c)
Replacements: Alberto De Marchi, Derrick Appiah, Simone Ferrari, Irné Herbst, Michele Lamaro, Edoardo Gori, Ian McKinley, Alberto Sgarbi
Isuzu Southern Kings: Masixole Banda; Yaw Penxe, Harlon Klaasen, Berton Klaasen, Bjorn Basson; Martin Du Toit, Godlen Masimla; Justin Forwood, Michael Willemse (c), Luvuyo Pupuma; Schalk Oelofse, John-Charles Astle; CJ Velleman, Andisa Ntsila, Ruaan Lerm
Replacements: Alandre van Rooyen, Lupumio Mguca, Rossouw de Klerk, Bobby de Wee, Marthinus Burger, Ruan van Rensburg, Ntabeni Dukisa, Tristan Blewett
At Stadio Monigo, Treviso, 8pm
TV: Live on DAZN, Super Sport and FreeSports
Referee: Craig Evans (WRU, 3rd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (WRU), Matteo Liperini (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Gabriele Pezzano
TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)
Benetton Rugby got back to winning ways in the Guinness PRO14 as they ended their run of three consecutive defeats with a powerful showing against Isuzu Southern Kings.
The Italians stormed into a lead that they never looked like relinquishing with a penalty try plus two further first-half scores from Luca Bigi and Dewaldt Duvenage.
A second penalty try after the break hammered home their advantage, with Kings’ only consolation coming in the form of Yaw Penxe’s try just before the interval.
Kieran Crowley made seven changes to Benetton for the round six clash, having slipped to three consecutive defeats in the Guinness PRO14 – their worst sequence since December.
And with the heartbreak of their 31-30 defeat to Edinburgh last time out still fresh in their minds, the hosts started like they had a point to prove at the Stadio Monigo.
It took just four minutes for them to get on the board. With Kings struggling to deal with Benetton’s driving lineout mauls, Bigi surged over the whitewash for his third try in the green jersey.
Tommaso Allan added the extras before Kings suffered another blow when Justin Forwood was sent to the bin, with Benetton almost capitalising immediately through Berton Klaasen.
He was held up on the line, but Kings were soon exposed again. Sustained pressure from the Benetton forwards left the visitors vulnerable and Duvenage took advantage to score.
— Benetton Rugby 🦁 (@BenettonRugby) October 6, 2018
Despite Kings being restored to 15 men, the South African side still had no answer for Benetton’s forward power and they conceded a third try before the half-hour mark.
The visitors were deemed to have stopped another Benetton maul illegally, with referee Craig Evans awarding a penalty try and sending Schalk Oelofse to the bin as a result.
When Kings finally did wrestle the ball off the home side they looked dangerous. Godlen Masimla went close first before linking up with Penxe, who stepped inside and touched down.
Masixole Banda failed with the conversion and Benetton went into the break with a 21-5 lead as they closed in on fourth win from four encounters against Kings.
Just like the first half, the hosts were relentless at the start of the second period and came close to sealing the bonus point when Abraham Steyn was held up by Masimla.
His efforts proved in vain, though, as Benetton were gifted a second penalty try on 53 minutes, with Forwood being sent for an early bath after being shown a second yellow card.
With the rain pouring down, the game became even scrappier in the closing minutes as both sides struggled to hold on to possession.
Kings came close to grabbing a late consolation through Tristan Blewett, but it wasn’t to be as Benetton consigned the visitors to their fifth defeat of the season.