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Cardiff Blues produce strong second-half display to beat Benetton

By PA

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Cardiff Blues kept alive their hopes of Champions Cup qualification after fighting back to beat Guinness PRO14 strugglers Benetton 29-14 in Italy.

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The Blues’ bonus-point success put them three points behind third-placed Scarlets in Conference B with one game left.

But they were given a tough battle by Benetton before their hosts ultimately subsided to a 13th successive league defeat this season.

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Eddie Jones & Owen Farrell England vs France Six Nations Press Conference
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The Blues trailed by 11 points approaching half-time following Benetton tries for powerful wing Ratuva Tavuyara and prop Ivan Nemer, with Italy international Tommaso Allan converting both scores.

The visitors, though, responded through a Keiron Assiratti try after an early Ben Thomas penalty, and they took charge after the break.

Further tries followed for wing Aled Summerhill, prop Corey Domachowski and centre Rey Lee-Lo, with Jarrod Evans kicking three conversions.

Benetton had 13 players unavailable because of Guinness Six Nations commitments, but Allan started after being released by the Italy management.

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The Blues, meanwhile, showed two changes as flanker Olly Robinson returned from injury for a first start since November, while Assiratti featured alongside front-row colleagues Domachowski and Liam Belcher.

Allan needed just 12 minutes to show his quality, providing a strong attacking presence as Benetton dominated the opening exchanges and creating an opening try for Tavuyara.

The Fijian still had plenty to do, but he finished with a one-handed touchdown and Allan converted for a 7-0 lead as the Blues encountered considerable early trouble.

Thomas opened the Blues’ account through a 16th-minute penalty, but he then moved into the centre when his midfield partner Mason Grady limped off after suffering what appeared to be a knee injury.

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Evans, released from the Wales camp for the Blues’ latest league game, replaced Grady and slotted in at fly-half.

The visitors, though, continued in defensive mode for much of an opening half that Benetton dominated, and their second try arrived four minutes before the interval.

This time it was Nemer who scored, powering over from close range, with the try being awarded by referee Gianluca Gnecchi despite Robinson appearing to get underneath Nemer and prevent a conclusive touchdown.

Allan converted, yet the Blues responded by scoring from their first notable attack, cutting the half-time deficit to four points as Assiratti rounded off a spell of concerted pressure, and Evans converted.

It gave the Blues momentum, and they went ahead just two minutes after the restart following flanker Ellis Jenkins’ midfield surge that created quick ball before Lee-Lo delivered a scoring pass to Summerhill, who finished impressively.

The Blues had dominance for the first time in an attritional encounter, and they claimed a third try 17 minutes from time.

Domachowski was the beneficiary of sustained pressure this time around, and Evans’ conversion took his team eight points clear into the final quarter before Lee-Lo secured a five-point maximum.

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PRO 14    

Cardiff Blues produce strong second-half display to beat Benetton

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