Ul­ster sur­vive scare to out­mus­cle Benet­ton

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RUGBY -

Benet­ton Rugby Ul­ster

DAN McFAR­LAND’S Ul­ster are back in sec­ond place in Con­fer­ence B af­ter tries from Sean Reidy and Rob Her­ring saw them take vic­tory in Italy. Both teams were well be­low full strength in this clash, and af­ter a bright first half from Benet­ton only saw them lead by four points at the break, Ul­ster’s power told in the sec­ond pe­riod as they worked their way to the win.

Conor O’Shea had re­leased six of the 19 Benet­ton play­ers that he called up for in­ter­na­tional duty, but Ul­ster made sure of vic­tory de­spite not hav­ing Rory Best, Iain Hen­der­son, Ja­cob Stock­dale, Jordi Mur­phy, John Cooney and Will Ad­di­son to call on.

Yet, had the home side taken all of their chances they could have had a bonus point se­cured by the turn-around, but in­stead a lack of con­trol from the Ital­ians and some last-gasp de­fence from Ul­ster meant only four points sep­a­rated the sides (7-3).

The pat­tern of the first 40 min­utes was laid out clearly in the open­ing act as a li­ne­out in­fringe­ment al­lowed Benet­ton to camp out in the Ul­ster 22 and three min­utes in the open­ing try ar­rived when Ul­ster’s li­ne­out de­fence col­lapsed and hooker Hame Faiva crashed through Billy Burns’s tackle to score.

The Ul­ster de­fence was stronger af­ter min­utes when the home side looked 14 10 15 like scor­ing again off a maul, and four min­utes later they were called into ac­tion again when Ratuva Tavu­yara was held up over the try-line, al­though a chat with the TMO might have re­sulted in a sec­ond Benet­ton try.

Vis­its to the Benet­ton 22 were scarce, but Ul­ster still cut their lead af­ter 30 min­utes when Burns drilled over a long-range penalty, and just be­fore the break it was a bril­liant strip tackle from James Hume in his first start that de­nied Tom­maso Ben­venuti as he tried to touch the ball down.

Af­ter be­ing dom­i­nated in ev­ery facet of the game, McFar­land’s side needed to im­prove dra­mat­i­cally af­ter half-time and im­me­di­ately they were bet­ter — McCloskey was stopped just short but Sean Reidy crashed over for the lead try af­ter 44 min­utes.

McCloskey had a try chalked out seven min­utes later when he lost con­trol when try­ing to score, but Michele La­maro was sin-binned mo­ments later for col­laps­ing a maul, and straight away Her­ring scored from the fol­low­ing maul to stretch the lead.

Tommy Al­lan added a penalty to trim the deficit for Benet­ton, but they had to make do with a los­ing bonus point. Scor­ers – Benet­ton Rugby: H Faiva try; T Al­lan con, pen. Ul­ster: S Reidy, R Her­ring tries; B Burns pen, con.

Benet­ton Rugby: J Hay­ward (A Rizzi 33); R Tavu­yara (A Es­pos­ito 60), I Brex, A Sgarbi, T Ben­venuti; T Al­lan, D Du­ve­nage (E Gori 71); D Ap­piah (A de Marchi 71), H Faiva (T Bar­avalle 49), S Fer­rari (M Ric­cioni 49); I Herbst (N Can­none 73), A Zanni; D Budd (c) (G Pet­tinelli 60), M La­maro, M Barbini.

Ul­ster: P Nel­son; R Baloucoune (A Ker­nohan 33), J Hume, S McCloskey, H Speight; B Burns, D Shana­han; E O’Sul­li­van (A Warwick 64), R Her­ring (J An­drew 64), M Moore (T O’Toole 64), A O’Con­nor (cap­tain), K Tread­well, M Coet­zee (C Ross 74), S Reidy (G Jones 64), N Ti­money.

Ref­eree: M Adam­son (SRU)

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