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Benetton boost play-off hopes after beating Dragons

By PA
Jacob Umaga of Benetton during the United Rugby Championship match between Leinster and Benetton at the RDS Arena in Dublin. (Photo By Ben McShane/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Benetton kept themselves firmly on course for the United Rugby Championship play-offs by claiming a 36-19 bonus-point victory over the Dragons in Treviso.

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The Italian team’s ninth league win of the season should have been even more convincing given how many clear-cut chances they created.

But it proved a case of job done in the end as Rhyno Smith, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Andy Uren, Onisi Ratave, Edoardo Iachizzi and Michele Lamaro scored tries while Tomas Albornoz kicked two conversions and Jacob Umaga one.

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The Dragons responded through second-half interception scores from wing Jared Rosser and scrum-half Dane Blacker, with Che Hope also touching down.

Cai Evans and Will Reed added conversions, yet it proved another frustrating away-day for Dai Flanagan’s team.

Benetton looked sharp from the start and it took them just eight minutes to cut open the Dragons’ defence through a brilliantly-executed move.

Smith had gone close to a try two minutes earlier but this time he made no mistake, assisted by wing Leonardo Marin’s midfield burst that saw the full-back touch down on his 50th Benetton appearance.

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United Rugby Championship

P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Leinster
14
11
3
0
54
2
Glasgow
14
11
3
0
53
3
Bulls
13
9
4
0
45
4
Munster
13
8
4
1
43
5
Benetton
14
9
4
1
42
6
Stormers
13
8
5
0
39
7
Ulster
14
8
6
0
39
8
Lions
14
7
7
0
39
9
Ospreys
13
7
6
0
35
10
Edinburgh
13
8
5
0
34
11
Connacht
13
7
6
0
34
12
Cardiff Rugby
14
3
10
1
25
13
Sharks
14
3
11
0
18
14
Scarlets
13
3
10
0
16
15
Gwent Dragons
14
3
11
0
15
16
Zebre
13
1
11
1
15

Albornoz converted and Benetton’s free-flowing approach driven by Uren threatened further scores during a dominant opening quarter but poor execution meant the Dragons were not punished.

Benetton blew three golden opportunities through poor handling but they had success after adopting a more direct approach, with Lucchesi rounding off a strong lineout drive to make it 12-0.

The Dragons were pedestrian and predictable in comparison and they gifted Benetton a third try before half-time when centre Aneurin Owen’s pass was intercepted by Uren, with the former Bristol number nine sprinting 60 metres unopposed and Albornoz adding a simple conversion.

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It was damage-limitation for the visitors but they gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Albornoz’s pass was intercepted by Rosser, who surged away to score from deep inside his own half.

But normal service was quickly resumed as Benetton claimed a bonus-point score when Albornoz’s pinpoint kick into space was gathered by Ratave and he applied a powerful finish.

Blacker took the Dragons into double figures when he intercepted another wayward Benetton pass but Iachizzi and Michele Lamaro crossed in the closing stages before Hope’s try as the Dragons fell to an 11th defeat of their URC campaign.

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