Ulster survive scare to outmuscle Benetton
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)