Benetton Rugby 14 - 29 Cardiff Blues
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Sun 14 March 13:00 Stadio Comunale di Monigo Guinness PRO14

Benetton Rugby 14 Cardiff Blues 29

Sun 14 Mar 2021 14:30 Benetton Rugby 14 Cardiff Blues 29

Cardiff Blues completed their Italian job to keep alive their European qualification hopes with a bonus-point victory over Benetton Rugby.

Following an injury time victory for Edinburgh on Saturday night, the capital city outfit knew only a victory would do in their race for the top tier of Europe.

They found themselves behind following a scrappy first-half, in which a late Keiron Assratti try kept them in touch.

But any frustrations were short-lived as Aled Summerhill displayed his deadly finishing to give his side the lead inside two minutes of the restart.

Corey Domachowski and Rey Lee-Lo added further tries to secure a crucial maximum point victory ahead of next Monday’s make or break showdown with Edinburgh.

Cardiff made a promising start to the encounter and kicked a penalty to the corner inside two minutes. They were unable to generate enough momentum through their driving line out and went to the backs with Matthew Morgan making an outside break. 

He kicked through to the corner but Aled Summerhill was beaten to the ball by the touchline and the opportunity lost.

The visitors continued to attack early and another strike play from a line out which saw Olly Robinson peel off the back to find Ellis Jenkins in midfield almost creating an opening with Summerhill bursting clear but unable to hold onto the inside pass.

While Cardiff’s early endeavour was undone by a lack of accuracy, the hosts demonstrated a lesson in clinical rugby when they came away with a try just before ten minutes.

After kicking a pair of penalties to the corner, they went through a number of phases before smartly switching the play to the left where the Blues were short of numbers, allowing Ratuva Tavuyara to finish acrobatically in the corner despite the best efforts of Ben Thomas.

Tomasso Allen converted expertly from the touchline to give the Italians the early advantage and it could have been more if not for an Olly Robinson intercept in his own 22 just minutes later.

Ben Thomas hit back with a penalty on 15 minutes but they were dealt a blow five minutes later when Mason Grady was helped off with a leg injury.

Jarrod Evans was called into action, having linked up with the squad from Wales duty on Friday, and the backline was reshuffled with Thomas and Rey Lee-Lo moving out one.

However, Dai Young’s men were unable to build themselves into the game as they were coming on the wrong end of refereeing decisions, particularly at the scrum, to the dismay of the front row. 

That allowed Benetton to dominate territory before a trademark jackal penalty from Ellis Jenkins allowed Jarrod Evans the opportunity to relive pressure.

A fine counter-attack gave the Italians the platform to enjoy a third sustained period of pressure and it ended with Ivan Nemer crashing over. The referee did not hesitate to award the try, despite it appearing as though the ball was held up and TMO replays did not provide the conclusive image to overturn the decision, to the fury of Robinson, who battled so hard to prevent a grounding.

Allen knocked over the conversion but Cardiff quickly responded with Keiron Assiratti powering over from close range for his first senior try with Robinson providing the final nudge.

Evans added the extras with final kick of the half to make it 14-10 at the break.

Following a disappointing and possession-starved first-half, the capital city charges made the perfect start to the second, with a try in two minutes. Whatever Young said in the changing rooms clearly worked.

Ellis Jenkins made the initial yards after latching onto a loose Benetton line out and maintained momentum with an offload to Liam Belcher. Two phases later, Summerhill was released down the left and he danced inside full-back Jayden Hayward for a fine try.

Evans’ conversion sailed agonisingly wide but the try had given his side a one point lead and it could have been more just moments later. 

Morgan broke on the arc from inside his half and released Summerhill again who scorched outside his opposite number. He drew the cover and passed inside to Jamie Hill, who had plenty to do, but just as he looked for the scoring pass back to Morgan, the cover defence hit from behind and the ball was knocked on.

There was a hairy moment when Treviso went on the attack from a loose kick and set alarm bells ringing with a succession of offloads but fortunately the last pass was dropped. That saw the Blues go on the attack as the game opened up but there was no score forthcoming with Tavuyara fortunate to escape punishment after slapping away Lee-Lo’s audacious off-load.

Cardiff Blues had further opportunities to stretch their lead and following two sustained periods of forward pressure, Domachowski drove over for a crucial try.

Evans converted to give us side a 22-14 lead with 15 minutes remaining.

Cardiff were now finding their groove, with Evans pulling the strings and Thomas offering a second option at first receiver to keep the Italians guessing.

And it was that versatility that created the bonus-point try with Thomas taking first-phase ball at first receiver and dummied to draw two defenders before offloading to Lee-Lo.

Evans slotted the conversion to give the Blues a 29-14 lead with ten minutes to play.

The hosts looked for the final word as the clock turned red, but the resilient visiting defence held out to ensure Benetton remained score-less in the second half as Dai Young's side took away all five points from the encounter.