It’s first versus third in the Guinness PRO14 Conference B this week as Benetton Rugby welcome reigning champions Leinster to Treviso.
The Irish province have begun their title defences – both for the Guinness PRO14 and the Champions Cup – in fine style, having lost just twice all season.
Meanwhile Benetton have enjoyed an impressive start to their campaign, having taken the scalps of the Dragons, Cardiff Blues and Isuzu Southern Kings so far this year.
What’s at stake?
With Leinster enjoying a five-point cushion at the top of Conference B heading into the weekend’s action, Benetton will see this as an opportunity to reign them back in.
For their part, Benetton sit eight points off the lead, and will be keen to chip away at that deficit at the Stadio Monigo.
Leinster, on the other hand, go into this one with the knowledge that a win will open up the gap between themselves and the Italians, what would be a significant scalp considering their opponent’s form at home.
Team news (Benetton): It’s all-change for Kieron Crowley’s side following their narrow Challenge Cup defeat at Agen last weekend.
In the pack Derrick Appiah, Hame Faiva, Marco Riccioni, Federico Ruzza and Michele Lamaro all come in, while youngster Antonio Rizzi replaces Tommaso Allan at fly-half and Alberto Sgarbi captains the side.
Team news (Leinster): Rob Kearney returns for the Irish side after missing last week’s narrow Champions Cup defeat to Toulouse with tightness in his squad.
Adam Byrne comes in on the right wing with Joe Tomane moving across to the left, and Sean O’Brien captains the side for the first time this season.
Talking points: Leinster captain Sean O’Brien said: “We’re coming up against a very tough side again, who played really well against us last year.
— Benetton Rugby 🦁 (@BenettonRugby) October 26, 2018
“We’ll have to be at our best over there in their own back yard, so it’s an interesting week, and one where we’re all looking forward to getting back out there.
“It was disappointing the other day, but we had a good chat afterwards and we want to go and perform this weekend.
“They’ve recruited well; they’ve got a big pack, a really good set-piece and good runners in their back-line.
“We know what’s ahead of us, we know the task that’s there and I think we’ll have to be really good.”
Key battle: With Tommaso Allan switching out for the talented Antonio Rizzi at fly-half, all eyes will be on the 20-year-old as he faces off against Ross Byrne.
Named in the Ireland squad for the first time this week, Byrne’s performances this season in the Guinness PRO14 have certainly justified the recognition.
A man-of-the-match performance in their win over rivals Munster caught the eye in particular, and if Byrne can deliver in a similar manner, Rizzi may have his work cut out.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) October 26, 2018
Key stat: Leinster were defeated 17-15 by Benetton at the RDS in April to end a 29-game unbeaten run against Italian opponents in the Championship.
Did you know?: The Italians have won their last three home games in all tournaments but have not won four in a row at Stadio Monigo since 2013.
Benetton: Jayden Hayward, Ratuva Tavuyara, Ignacio Brex, Alberto Sgarbi (c), Monty Ioane, Antonio Rizzi, Dewaldt Duvenage; Derrick Appiah, Hame Faiva, Maro Riccioni, Irne Herbst, Federico Ruzza, Giovanni Pettinelli, Michele Lamaro, Maro Barini
Replacements: Tomas Baravalle, Alberto De Marchi, Simone Ferrari, Alessandro Zanni, Marco Lazzaroni, Tito Tebaldi, Tommaso Iannone, Angelo Esposito
Leinster: Rob Kearney, Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin. Robbie Henshaw, Joe Tomane, Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Jack McGrath, James Tracy, Tadhg Furlong, Scott Fardy, James Ryan, Seán O’Brien (c), Dan Leavy, Max Deegan
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, Rhys Ruddock, Hugh O’Sullivan, Noel Reid, Conor O’Brien
TV: At Stadio Monigo, Treviso, 4pm. Live on Premier Sports, DAZN, Eir Sport
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 50th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Craig Evans (WRU), Andrea Spadoni (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Stefano Marrama (FIR)
TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)
Leinster stretched their lead at the top of the Guinness PRO14 Conference B as they ran out 31-3 winners away to Benetton in damp conditions in Treviso.
Last season, Kieran Crowley’s side won for the very first time in Dublin, but there was to be no repeat this time against a strong Leinster side.
The writing was on the wall early when Adam Byrne crossed in the early minutes, and James Tracy added another before half-time for a 12-3 advantage.
Replacement Conor O’Brien went over for the third early in the second half and just before the hour Andrew Porter had the power to drive over and secure the bonus point.
Leinster continued to push and added a fifth try in the closing stages, Joe Tomane collecting a little chip kick to dot down.
Leinster made the perfect start with a try after just four minutes from Byrne just as it seemed the Benetton defence had held out.
While the forwards struggled to make ground, Jamison Gibson-Park tried a little chip over the top and that was misjudged by Jayden Hayward, allowing Byrne to pounce and dot down.
Ross Byrne could not convert from the touchline, and Benetton then managed an extended spell of possession, earning three points from the boot of Antonio Rizzi when Leinster infringed on their line.
However on the half-hour, Leinster got back into Benetton territory and from a driving maul, Tracy was not going to be stopped.
While the first half was evenly-fought, despite the Leinster advantage, the second belonged to the visitors, who stretched away with ease.
Tracy was denied a try early in the half for a foot in touch, but the resulting lineout went astray and when Leinster’s scrum got the upper hand, they were able to go wide and O’Brien was strong enough to get over.
From this point it seemed as though the bonus-point try was always on the cards, and it came from a Benetton error.
Taking advantage of a loose ball which was not dealt with in the Benetton 22, Leinster turned it over and threw everything at the line.
Eventually that pressure told, with Porter picking and driving his way over, Ross Byrne’s conversion making it 26-3.
Leinster rang the changes and brought on a lot of replacements, with Noel Reid one of those and he set up the fifth try.
With the forward pack on the verge of crossing, the visitors turned to their backs and Reid’s little chip was collected by Tomane and dotted down.
26 Oct 2018
26 Oct 2018