Connacht secure bonus-point win over Benetton at the Sportsground

They will now head into their European Challenge Cup campaign boosted by their fourth win of the campaign.
Connacht secure bonus-point win over Benetton at the Sportsground

MOMENTUM: Connacht’s Mack Hansen celebrates with try scorer Finlay Bealham. Pic: ©INPHO/James Crombie

Connacht 38 Benetton 19  

Connacht gave their URC a badly needed boost when they ran in five tries to secure a deserved bonus point win at the Sportsground.

They will now head into their European Challenge Cup campaign boosted by their fourth win of the campaign.

Connacht scored five tries and might easily have got double that but, crucially, they were able to find a response anytime Benetton scored in a very entertaining match in perfect conditions.

A new 4G surface, new floodlights, and a calm afternoon borrowed from the summer provided a perfect backdrop and both sides responded with some top-quality rugby.

Connacht went in leading 17-7 at the break after an entertaining opening half where both sides tried to make the most of the benign conditions and ran the ball at every opportunity.

Connacht hit the front after less than four minutes when lock Niall Murray showed awesome pace to score from beyond halfway, sprinting past winger Edoardo Padovani and full-back Rhino Smith on his way to the line.

Benetton butchered a few chances through poor handling but English international Jacob Umaga, on his debut after his move from financially troubled Wasps, gave them plenty of go-forward ball.

They deservedly got level when Umaga's former Wasps teammate pounced down the left after the ball fell kindly for him off Paul Boyle's knee as Mach Hanse tried to recycle it in the tackle.

Umaga landed the conversion from the left but Connacht, themselves guilty of not making the most of their chances, hit the front again after 24 minutes when Boyle scored from a lineout move with Bundee Aki supplying the final pass.

Carty added his second conversion and put ten between them at the break with a penalty from the right after Benetton were finally pinged for their lineout infringements after Carty had executed a superb 50:22.

Connacht made a brilliant start to the second-half with sustained pressure finally yielding their third try when tighthead Finlay Bealham squeezed over beside the posts with Carty's third conversion making it 24-7 after 44 minutes.

But Benetton hit back and incessant pressure inside the home 22 eventually yielded a converted try for centre Manuel Zuliani to cut the gap to 24-14 after 54 minutes.

A nervous finish was avoided just after Benetton were reduced to 14 men for the second week in a row after 66 minutes when former New Zealand U-20 lock Scott Scrafton for a head-to-head challenge on Dylan Tierney-Martin. Scrafton had left the pitch for assessment when refereee Marius van der Westhuizen dished out the red card, but surprisingly the replacement Connacht hooker did not go off for an HIA.

Connacht quickly made the extra man count and replacement scrum-half Caolin Blade when he sniped in under the posts as they piled on the pressure to secure the bonus point.

The impressive 20-year old Benetton centre Tommaso Menoncello darted over for a late try but Connacht, with man-of-the-match Paul Boyle again central, had the final say when Tierney-Martin got over after a penalty to the left corner and Carty added his fifth conversion with the final act of a good win for Friend's men.

Scorers: 

Connacht: Tries: N Murray, P Boyle, F Bealham, C Blade, D Tierney-Martin. Cons: J Carty (5). Pen: Carty.

Benetton: Tries: M Watson, M Zanon, T Menomcello. Cons: J Umaga (2).

Connacht: J Porch; D Kilgallen (T O'Halloran 63), T Farrell (T Daly 60), B Aki, M Hansen; J Carty, K Marmion (C Blade 60); D Buckley (P Dooley 52), D Heffernan (D Tierney-Martin 52), F Bealham (J Aungier 52); O Dowling, N Murray (G Thornbury 55); C Prendergast, C Oliver (J Butler 63), P Boyle.

Benetton: R Smith (I Mendy 19); E Padovani, T Menoncello, M Zanon (J Riera 65), M Watson; J Umaga, D Duvenage (A Garbisi 63); I Nemer (T Gallo 40), G Nicotera (L Frangini 73), F Alongi (N Tetaz Chaparro 32); N Cannone (M Lassaroni 73), S Scrafton; M Zuliani, M Lamaro, G Pettinelli (A Izekor 73).

Referee: M van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

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