We can reasonably expect a tight encounter between two evenly matched teams in Italy on Saturday when Benetton host Glasgow Warriors.
Both sides have won four and lost five of their Guinness PRO14 matches so far this season, albeit Benetton’s seven bonus points edges them ahead of their opponents on Saturday on points.
Kieran Crowley’s men are in good form, too, having earned all of their wins this campaign over the last six matches and they have also won their last three encounters with Scottish opponents.
Glasgow, on the other hand, will be aiming for an immediate response following their 1872 Cup defeat to Edinburgh and also seeking revenge for last season’s loss to Benetton.
Kick-off: Stadio Monigo | KO 13:00 (UK) KO 14:00 (ITA), Saturday 4 January
How to watch: Live on Premier Sports 2, eir sport 1, DAZN, pro14.tv
Players to watch out for: Hame Faiva (Benetton), Adam Hastings (Glasgow)
After scoring a hat-trick against Italian rivals Zebre, exciting hooker Faiva’s season continues to go from strength to strength (he has seven tries in all competitions now) and the head of steam he has built up will make him even more dangerous against Glasgow.
Glasgow’s young fly-half Hastings continues to rapidly develop and his array of creative skills were on show against Edinburgh, with 26 passes and 41 metres gained.
He may still have room to grow but the Scotland international is an exciting talent and one of the stars of Dave Rennie’s side.
Key stat: Glasgow have lost only one of their last 30 encounters with Italian opponents since 2011: but that was a 20-17 defeat to Benetton in Treviso twelve months ago.
Benetton: Jayden Hayward, Leonardo Sarto, Ratuva Tavuyara, Luca Morisi, Monty Ioane, Tommaso Allan, Dewaldt Duvenage (C), Abraham Steyn, Giovanni Pettinelli, Sebastian Negri, Federico Ruzza, Irne Herbst, Marco Riccioni, Hame Faiva, Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: Engjel Makelara, Cherif Traore, Tiziano Pasquali, Niccolo Cannone, Eli Snyman, Marco Lazzaroni, Tito Tebaldi, Antonio Rizzi
Glasgow Warriors: Ruaridh Jackson, Kyle Steyn, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, Niko Matawalu, Pete Horne, George Horne, Aki Seiuli, George Turner, Adam Nicol, Rob Harley, Tim Swinson, Bruce Flockhart, Tom Gordon, Ryan Wilson (C)
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Oli Kebble, Petrus du Plessis, Andrew Davidson, Chris Fusaro, Nick Frisby, Huw Jones, Glenn Bryce
Glasgow Warriors produced the perfect response to last week’s 1872 Cup disappointment by overcoming a battling Benetton side in a pulsating encounter at the Stadio Monigo.
Both sides entered the contest with four wins and five defeats from their opening nine Guinness PRO14 fixtures, but last year’s beaten finalists – who had made wholesale changes to their XV – were sumptuous in both attack and defence throughout.
Hame Faiva, Braam Steyn and Antonio Rizzi got on the scoresheet for the hosts, but tries from Sam Johnson, Pete Horne, George Horne (2), Nikola Matawalu and Andrew Davidson sealed a bonus point win for Dave Rennie’s men.
The visitors burst out of the blocks and were the first to get their names on the scoresheet with little over two minutes on the board, Johnson dotting down after Kyle Steyn expertly slipped through the home defence.
The Scotsmen continued to push forward in the game’s opening stages, and despite the strength of Benetton’s front row earning their side a foothold in the game, Pete Horne stretched Warriors’ advantage in the 12th minute following a lineout deep in home territory.
With plenty of work to do so early on in the game, the hosts duly rallied and after Tim Swinson was penalised following a lineout, Faiva bulldozed over in the corner for his fourth try in two games on the 20-minute mark.
And with the momentum gained from their first points of the afternoon, last season’s quarter-finalists continued to push for a second try but were kept at bay by resolute Glasgow defending.
With the clock ticking towards half-time, an infringement from substitute Rizzi gifted the away side crucial territory and George Horne capitalised superbly to extend his side’s lead in the 30th minute.
But Benetton responded immediately and having again struggled to break through the visiting defence, Braam Steyn made the most of Aki Seiuli’s yellow card and powered over to help reduce the deficit to seven points with the last play of the first half.
Having finished the opening 40 on top, the Italians continued in the same vein after the interval and Faiva came within inches of his second of the day, only for Glasgow to escape unscathed.
And after a period of end-to-end action it was the away side who were next to strike, Bruce Flockhart creeping through a sloppy challenge before darting towards the try-line and teeing up George Horne for his second score, thus securing the bonus point.
But the hosts weren’t ready to lie down, and Tito Tebaldi broke through the line brilliantly and found Rizzi, who escaped the challenge of two defenders before diving over to set up a thrilling final 15 minutes.
Nick Grigg was stretchered off after a nasty clash of heads with Cherif Traore with little over ten minutes to go, before Matawalu and Davidson added late scores to secure an impressive win for Warriors.
There were plenty of worthy candidates from the visiting squad, but Scotland international Horne stood up to be counted with a fabulous display at both ends of the pitch.
Outstanding in attack and defence, the scrum-half dictated play from the off and capped a brilliant performance with two deserved tries.
Sam Johnson’s early try – after Kyle Steyn stylishly split the home defence – showcased Warriors’ intentions from the off, while Antonio Rizzi’s second-half score for the hosts also deserves a mention.
But George Horne’s try ten minutes before the break was arguably the pick of the bunch, with the No.9’s older brother Pete skipping through the home backline before offloading expertly to the 24-year-old who made no mistake.