by James Dodd
Date: March 6th, 2020
Venue: Rodney Parade
Referee: George Clancy
ITALIAN outfit Benetton gained a vital bonus point victory away from home after beating the Dragons comfortably in Newport.
The boot of Ian Keatley and tries from Luca Sperandio, Tomas Baravalle, Angelo Esposito and Hame Faiva helped give the away side the spoils.
Consolation tries from Rhodri Williams, Will Talbot-Davies and Elliot Dee were not enough and meant they left Rodney Parade empty handed.
It was Benetton that started the brightest and after only five minutes, had their first try of the evening. The ball was shipped wide to Esposito who managed to get on the outside of the Dragons defence, before offloading to Federico Ruzza, who then fed Sperandio for an easy finish.
The conversion was put over by Irishman Keatley to give the visitors a 7-0 advantage.
The Dragons’ evening was slowly getting worse when Jared Rosser’s kick went out on the full and gave Benetton an attacking line-out.
It initially looked like Taine Basham was going to run 80m after intercepting the ball from the Italian’s maul. However, referee George Clancy penalised the forward for being offside.
The result was Benetton kicked to the corner and scored their second try of the evening thanks to hooker Baravalle through a ruthless driving maul. Keatley kicked the conversion out wide to increase their lead to 14.
Jacob Botica finally gave the home side something to cheer about when he put over two penalties to make it 6-14.
This momentum didn’t last long when Keatley slotted his third kick, after the Dragons were penalised for competing for the ball on the ground.
However, the Welsh region went into the changing rooms with a massive boost. In the very last play of the opening 40 minutes, tight-head prop Josh Reynolds picked a fantastic angle on the half-way line and managed to run 20 metres before getting tackled and offloaded to captain Rhodri Williams who darted under the sticks.
This left the score at the break 13-17.
— joemansfield (@jmansjourno) March 6, 2020
The Dragons couldn’t have started the second half more different to how they ended the first.
Number 14 Esposito was given the ball on the blind side in space and managed to find his way to the try line and see off any remaining Dragons defenders. Keatley again made no mistake and the scores were 24-13 in favour of the travelling side.
The team from Newport were now struggling to get a foot hold in the game and their job was made even harder after Harrison Keddie was shown yellow for a dangerous tackle.
The extra man was evident and Keatley managed to add a brace of penalties to make the score 13-30.
The home side were then given a lifeline when Ashton Hewitt put a big tackle on Esposito, who made an error of judgement and gifted the ball to Will Talbot-Davies, who pounced in the corner.
The difficult touch line conversion was put over by Arwel Robson to make the gap just 10.
With just over five minutes left, any hope was gone thanks to Hame Faiva scoring from another unstoppable Benetton maul.
The Dragons did have the last say when Welsh international Elliot Dee crossed over in the very last play. The unsuccessful conversion left the full-time score 25-37.
Both teams will return to action in a fortnights time. The Dragons will travel to the Kingspan Stadium to play Ulster, whereas Benetton will host Munster in Treviso.
Player of the match: Ian Keatley
Dragons: Talbot-Davies; Rosser, Warren, Dixon, Hewitt; Botica, Williams (C); Reynolds, Shipp, Fairbrother, Davies, Screech, Keddie, Basham, Griffiths. Replacements: Dee, Maguire, Coleman, Nansen, Evans, Baldwin, Robson, Edwards.
Benetton: Sperandio, Esposito, Brex, Zanon, Ioane, Keatley (C), Trussardi; Quaglio, Baravalle, Alongi, Herbst, Snyman, Lamaro, Ruzza, Halafihi. Replacements: Faiva, Zani, Di Stefano, Fuser, Pettinelli, Petrozzi, McKinley, Riera.