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Former England 10 earns Benetton stunning comeback win over Cardiff

By PA
Henry Stowers of Benetton Rugby embraces teammate Jacob Umaga after the team's defeat in the EPCR Challenge Cup Semi-Final match between RC Toulon and Benetton Rugby at Felix Mayol Stadium on April 30, 2023 in Toulon, France. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

The boot of Jacob Umaga proved crucial as Benetton overturned a 16-point deficit to beat Cardiff 23-22 at the Arms Park in the opening round of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

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The Italian outfit had trailed 19-3 after 32 minutes but went up a gear in the second half to snatch the spoils in the final minute of the match.

Umaga, 25, nailed a penalty after Benetton prop Simone Ferrari had been laid out by a shoulder to the head from debut-making Cardiff prop Ciaran Parker, who was sent off for dangerous play.

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It had been a one-sided second half, with Cardiff’s only points coming through a penalty from new outside-half Tinus De Beer.

They had been 19-10 to the good at the end of a first half in which they had played most of the rugby, with three tries in 14 minutes after Benetton had taken an early lead with a penalty from outside-half Umaga, the nephew of All Blacks great Tana Umaga.

Livewire captain Liam Belcher was on the end of a driving lineout for Cardiff after 18 minutes for De Beer to convert, while a sustained build-up culminated in a second try with prop Rhys Carre forcing his way over near the sticks.

Cardiff’s third try was the pick with inside passes from right-wing Owen Lane and De Beer sending scrum-half Ellis Bevan over. But De Beer was timed out by the clock – kickers are allowed a minute for attempts at goal – as he lined up the conversion.

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Benetton opened their try account two minutes earlier when hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi emerged from under a pile of bodies after a line-out catch and drive, Umaga converting from a difficult angle.

They had a spring in their step when the second half started, increasing the tempo, and being rewarded with another successful penalty from Umaga to trim the arrears to six points.

De Beer responded with a penalty at the hour mark for a 22-13 lead but it did not deter the visitors when substitute Tomas Albornoz raced clear for a super try. Umaga converted and then took his match tally to 13 points with the winning penalty.

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