Luca Sighinolfi/INPHO John Hodnett celebrates his try with Jack O'Sullivan.
# Italian Job Done
Munster take maximum returns from 70-point thriller in Treviso
Graham Rowntree’s side scored six tries and overcame plenty of hurdles to overtake Benetton in the URC standings.

Benetton 30

Munster 40

MUNSTER HAVE OVERTAKEN Benetton in the URC table after a 40-30 victory over the Italians which was both testing and thrilling.

Graham Rowntree’s men received two yellow cards — which overlapped for a costly couple of minutes in which they were reduced to 13 men — but scored six tries in Treviso to take maximum matchday points, while Ignacio Mendy’s last-play hat-trick dot-down was enough for Benetton to take a four-try bonus point which could yet prove crucial in the play-off race.

A broad palette of scores by Paddy Patterson, Jack O’Sullivan, John Hodnett, Jean Kleyn, Antoine Frisch and Joey Carbery was ultimately enough for the away side but Munster will be frustrated by the relative ease with which Benetton were able to conjure four of their own against the southern province’s typically more resolute defence.

Carbery, who started at out-half but wound up playing the majority of the game at fullback, had a mostly mixed day but his lung-bursting kick-chase in the 71st minute proved pivotal as Antoine Frisch finally took Munster out of reach of the courageous Italians.

It was a game whose back-and-forth excitement masked over periods of poor quality but, with such disruption to both squads and so much on the line between them this afternoon, all that truly mattered was the result.

Coming into this afternoon’s encounter, Marco Bortolami’s Benetton sat one point, and one place, above Munster in the URC table. The Teviso outfit had won eight of their nine competitive home games this term, six of them with bonus points. They had scored an average of 35 points in their last six games in all competitions.

That they were without a full 17 of their Italian call-ups didn’t prevent them from producing an occasionally electrifying attacking display but Graham Rowntree’s Munster, minus eight of their own internationals, ultimately had the edge in overall caliber as was expected.

A frantic start to the game more closely resembled this morning’s Sydney sevens action than typical 15-a-side fare.

Benetton were making hay through Munster’s 10-12 channel and were able to convert the chaos into a composed opening try. It was outside centre Marco Zanon who applied the finishing touch to a sweeping backline move which involved an excellent linebreak by his fellow midfielder Filippo Drago and a tidy offload assist by Jacob Umaga.

Out-half Umaga’s conversion from the left-hand touchline came back off the post.

Munster spurned a couple of their own early opportunities through inaccuracy both of the hand and at the breakdown, and they were made to pay as Benetton more than doubled their lead.

An innocuous-looking situation on the Italians’ own 10-metre line yielded a wonderful second try: Drago cut in-field and rode the tackle of Roman Salanoa before popping an offload into the sumptuous line of fullback Rhyno Smith. The South African steamed into the Munster half at full tilt before getting a diving pass away to right wing Ignacio Mendy, who took it to the house and sparked wild celebrations at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo.

Umaga, this time, nailed the afters and stretched the hosts out to a 12-0 lead inside 14 minutes.

Munster gained a foothold three minutes later and it was another score from way downtown. Joey Carbery swung a skip pass out to Calvin Nash, who chipped and collected down the right wing before sending Paddy Patterson under the posts. Carbery added the conversion to bring Munster back to within a try.

After Nash went off holding his ribs, Ben Healy made his entrance off the bench. He went in at out-half with Carbery shifting to fullback, Shane Daly moving from 15 onto the left wing, and Liam Coombes swapping sides.

A spell of Benetton pressure before the half-hour mark was relieved with a jackal-penalty turnover by Jack O’Sullivan, and it was Munster’s blindside who helped to nudge them in front.

John Hodnett, already impressive again, lowered the shoulder and found open field inside the Benetton half. Hodnett fed the oncoming O’Sullivan, who waltzed over to leave Carbery with the simplest of conversions to make it 14-12 to the visitors.

Munster built some phases in a bid to assume control towards the break but it was Benetton who still looked the more dangerous off limited ball. Their last attack of the first half yielded another line-break and three points from the boot of Umaga following a Munster infringement on the ground.

It was 15-14 to the hosts at the turnaround.

Munster reclaimed the lead almost immediately upon the resumption. A fluid move across the backline was kept alive by the soft hands of Carbery and Hodnett backed himself down the left flank, swatting off weak Benetton tackles to score. The Roscarberry man was later named Player of the Match, while Carbery made it 21-15 with the boot.

Moments later, however, Ben Healy was binned for deliberately knocking on a Jacob Umaga pass as Benetton once again took advantage of soft Munster defence. Umaga pointed to the sticks and narrowed the deficit to three points.

A seesaw battle was increasingly looking like it was going to come down on the side of Munster as Benetton’s defence — again, they lacked a plethora of internationals — began to wilt in the face of its higher-quality opposition.

Though still down to 14, the visitors sealed their bonus point and took their first two-score advantage of the day through Jean Kleyn. The Ireland international capped off a patient, forward-led raid of the Italians’ 22′, the highlight of which was a huge carry by Roman Salanoa which gave Munster a foothold just metres from the line. Carbery, again, did the rest, and it was 28-18.

Benetton simply refused to lie down, however, and continued to test Munster down the other end. Graham Rowntree’s side were briefly reduced to 13 when Diarmuid Barron was pinged for going off his feet as Munster scrambled to defend their own line on 57 minutes. Benetton opted for a scrum and expertly exposed Munster’s two-man disadvantage as Mendy crossed for his second in the right-hand corner.

Umaga’s conversion went wide, again leaving just a try between the sides at 28-23. Healy returned from the bold-boy step to take the restart.

Carbery remained on place kicks and after Carl Wegner strayed high in a relatively harmless tackle, he had the chance to stretch Munster’s lead back out to two scores. The Ireland international’s effort from just over 40 metres shaved the right-hand post and dropped wide, however, leaving Munster’s lead a perilous one as Barron’s return brought them back to full complement.

It was a poor miss, but Carbery more than made up for it moments later when he was integral to Munster’s clinching score. The stand-in fullback chased a kick 70 metres down the field like a man possessed, his pressure on Rhyno Smith allowing Shane Daly to smother the Benetton fullback who eventually coughed up possession.

Paddy Patterson tried the dart and was stopped inside the hosts’ 22′. Carbery, already standing in at fullback, then deputised at nine and teed up Healy, whose pinpoint crossfield kick from right to left sent Antoine Frisch over for Munster’s brilliant fifth try.

Carbery, his legs surely like jelly, pulled his touchline conversion wide but Munster were up 33-23 with only seven minutes remaining.

With Benetton hearts finally broken, the southern province went over again on 76 minutes — and it was Carbery who dotted down after a tidy, floated pass by Healy bypassed the tired Italian defenders.

His successful conversion made it 40-23.

The fat lady was singing but Benetton were cognisant that a four-try bonus point could yet prove crucial in the URC play-off race.

They got it through Mendy, who completed his hat-trick in some discomfort. Umaga’s successful conversion gave the scoreline a fairer reflection as Munster came away 40-30 victors and moved three points ahead of Benetton in the table heading into the Six Nations break.

Scorers for Benetton:

  • Tries: Marco Zanon, Ignacio Mendy (3)
  • Pens: Jacob Umaga (2/2)
  • Cons: Jacob Umaga (3/4)

Scorers for Munster:

  • Tries: Paddy Patterson, Jack O’Sullivan, John Hodnett, Jean Kleyn, Antoine Frisch, Joey Carbery
  • Pens: Joey Carbery (0/1)
  • Cons: Joey Carbery (5/6)

Benetton: Rhyno Smith; Ignacio Mendy, Marco Zanon, Filippo Drago, Mattia Bellini; Jacob Umaga, Dewaldt Duvenage (Captain); Nahuel Tetaz, Siua Maile, Tiziano Pasquali; Marco Lazzaroni, Riccardo Favretto; Giovanni Pettinelli, Alessandro Izekor, Henry Stowers.

Replacements: Bautista Bernasconi, Thomas Gallo, Filippo Alongi, Nicola Piantella, Carl Wegner, Abraham Steyn, Manfredi Albanese, Marcus Watson.

Munster: Shane Daly; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Malakai Fekitoa, Liam Coombes; Joey Carbery, Paddy Patterson; Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell (Captain), Roman Salanoa; Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley; Jack O’Sullivan, John Hodnett, Alex Kendellen.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Mark Donnelly, Stephen Archer, Cian Hurley, Ruadhan Quinn, Neil Cronin, Ben Healy, Rory Scannell.

Match officials: Referee: Ben Blain, AR1: Federico Vedovelli, AR2: Franco Rosella, TMO: Sam Grove-White.

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