Benetton Treviso 30 Munster 40
A morale-boosting victory for Munster in Treviso, with a bonus point triumph being garnered by an understrength side with plenty of room for improvement.
This is the sort of win Graham Rowntree has been trying to achieve all season and his weakened side continued Munster’s mid-season revival in a highly entertaining six tries to four URC clash in front of 4,082 at Stadio Monigo.
Munster looked to be in serious trouble when Benetton deservedly opened up a 12-0 lead after less than 13 minutes. The province regrouped and they worked their way back into the game with John Hodnett leading the way, before they dominated the second-half despite being a man down for half of it.
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Benetton had only lost once in the league at home all season and looked set for a crucial win when they struck for two early tries. Centre Marco Zanon finished the first in the left corner after a good break by his partner Filippo Drago after seven minutes.
The Argentine winger got the first of his hat-trick five minutes later after fullback Rhyno Smith had made the initial opening in the Munster cover, with Jacob Umaga adding the extras to lead 12-0.
Another score might have put the tie beyond Munster, but they hit back after 17 minutes. Joey Carbery went wide with a pass to Calvin Nash and he chipped into empty space down the right before retrieving it on the bounce to send scrumhalf Paddy Patterson through to score.
Carbery added the extras before switching to fullback when Ben Healy came on for the injured Nash and it took an excellent tap-tackle from Carbery on Mattia Bellini to deny the Italians a third try after 27 minutes.
Hodnett’s influence was continuing to make an impact all over the field and he showed great pace to break through and time his offload to Jack O’Sullivan to score under the posts eight minutes from the break.
Carbery’s conversion edged Munster in front for the first time but a penalty from Umaga left Benetton 15-14 ahead at the interval.
A training ground move secured Munster’s third try three minutes after the break when Hodnett went out wide on the left and Liam Coombes set him up after a maul in midfield. Carbery added the extras to lead 21-15.
Healy was binned for the second week in a row after coming on when he was pinged for a deliberate knock-on as Umaga tried to put hooker Siua Maile through. Umaga converted the resultant penalty but it was Munster who struck again despite being down a man. They built the phases and worked the ball into the 22 before Jean Kleyn pushed through number eight Henry Stowers to score and secure the bonus point. Carbery’s fourth conversion made it 28-18 after 50 minutes.
Healy returned but Munster remained down to 14 men when replacement hooker Diarmuid Barron picked up a yellow card for a ruck offence and this time Benetton punished them with Mendy getting his second try in the right corner after they went wide.
Carbery missed his first kick of the day with a 65th minute penalty before a superb cross-kick from Healy set up Antoine Frisch for their fifth try and Healy was also the creator to send Carbery over four minutes from time and seal a fine win.
Benetton though pulled back a try bonus point in the final play which could yet prove crucial in the battle for knockout places when Mendy completed his hat-trick in the right corner, but Munster deservedly headed for home with five points in the bag.
SCORING SEQUENCE – 7 mins: Zanon try 5-0; 13: Mendy try, Umaga con 12-0; 17: Patterson try, Carbery con 12-7; 32: O’Sullivan try, Carbery con 12-14; 39: Umaga pen 15-14; HT 15-14; 43: Hodnett try, Carbery con 15-21; 47: Umaga pen 18-21; 50: Kleyn try, Carbery con 18-28; 57: Mendy try 23-28; 71: Frisch try 23-33; 76: Carbery try and con 23-40; 80: Mendy try 30-40.
Benetton: R Smith; I Mendy, M Zanon, F Drago, M Bellini; J Umaga, D Duvenage (capt); N Tetaz, S Maile, T Pasquali; M Lazzaroni, R Favretto; G Pettinelli, A Izekor, H Stowers.
Replacements: C Wegner for Lazzaroni (46 mins), T Gallo for Netaz (47), A Steyn for Stowers (51), M Albanese for Smith (54-64), B Bernasconi for Maile (55), M Watson for Bellini, F Alongi for Pasquali, (both 64) Albanese for Duvenage (73).
Munster: S Daly; C Nash, A Frisch, M Fekitoa, L Coombes; J Carbery, P Patterson; J Wycherley, N Scannell (capt), R Salanoa; J Kleyn, F Wycherley; J O’Sullivan, J Hodnett, A Kendellen.
Replacements: B Healy for Nash (21 mins), S Archer for Salanoa, D Barron for Scannell, C Hurley for Kleyn (all 54), N Scannell for L Coombes (57-64), M Donnelly for J Wycherley, R Quinn for O’Sullivan, R Scannell for Fekitoa (all 72), N Cronin for Patterson (77).
Referee: Ben Blain (Scotland).