Benetton Treviso put up a superb fight but Leinster prevail to win yet again

Leinster overcame a spirited display from the Italians but in the end they deserved their 37-25 victory.

Image: Elena Barbini/INPHO

Updated Oct 10th 2020, 8:06 PM

IT IS EASY to be snobby about Italian rugby given their sorry history at both club and international level.

But every now and then, they do enough to remind you that they deserve to be treated with respect.

And this was one of those occasions. Time after time, they fell behind – yet stubbornly, they refused to give in, scoring three tries, two from line-out drives, as Leinster huffed and puffed before finally getting out of here with a bonus-point win.

For Leo Cullen’s side, there were positives. First, there were the four tries – James Tracy, James Ryan, James Lowe and a penalty try ensuring they had a bonus point attached to their 2020/21 CV.

Yet there were also flaws. Coughing up three tries will result in a thorough review on Monday morning. Still, they won. That is the bottom line.

A second minute penalty from Ross Byrne put Leinster in front yet the lead lasted barely a minute, as Paolo Garbisi cancelled out the visitors’ advantage with his first kick of the day.

Still, Leinster were establishing a foothold in the game, their work at the breakdown giving them decent field position, and when Byrne was presented with a second kickable opportunity on six minutes, he didn’t look a gift-horse in the mouth. Three more points were on the board, Leinster leading 6-3.

Opportunity knocked again on 10 minutes when Iliesa Ratuva was sent to the bin – but Benetton’s initial response was to dig their heels in, Garbisi kicking his second penalty of the day on 13 minutes to level the scores.

Their confidence up, Treviso’s resilience was admirable but there was nothing they could do to contain Leinster’s maul on 18 minutes, when James Tracy’s throw found Ryan Baird at the tail of the line out. The shove quickly came on and Tracy didn’t hesitate when he saw a gap to get to the line, crossing for the opening try of the night. Byrne added the extras and that, you assumed, would be that. Leinster would stroll to victory.

But back came Benetton. This time it was James Ryan who was yellow carded and this time it was the Italians who profited – Sebastian Negri powering across the line from close range after a sustained period of pressure saw Benetton shift the play left to right following a five-metre scrum.

As the Leinster defence scrambled to regain position, Negri spotted his chance and took it, before Garbisi added the extras to level things at 13-13.

But if there is one thing we have learned about Leinster over the last couple of years, it is their ability to be remain patient, even when things are going against them.

They showed those qualities again here – bagging a second try a couple of minutes before the half-time break, when James Lowe stepped in off his wing to collect Jamison Gibson-Park’s quick delivery before the New Zealander showed superb footwork to get beyond two defenders and score. Again Byrne was accurate with his kick and again Leinster were seven points clear.

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But not for long.

Back came Treviso yet again – the line-out the source of their second try, which incidentally was poorly defended by Leinster – Hame Faiva getting the finishing touches on their drive. Crucially, Garbisi missed the conversion and that, you suspect, had a dent in their morale.

Certainly Leinster’s 56th minute penalty try did – stretching the visitors’ lead to nine points and when Byrne kicked a 64th minute penalty, all of a sudden the Leinster lead had stretched out to 12 points and thoughts of an upset had pretty much disappeared.

Or had it?

Another line-out led to another drive – Treviso’s young hooker, Gianmarco Lucchesi finding Braam Steyn at the tail – and by the time the maul was moving forward, Lucchesi was timing his arrival perfectly. He scored. The gap was down to five.

But Leinster were not done. With a minute left on the clock, James Ryan crossed for a fourth Leinster try and when Byrne converted, that 12-point margin had been restored. Leinster won the game but Treviso won respect.

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