A makeshift Leinster side conceded an 80th minute try this evening as they were held at home by a brave Benetton outfit.
Leinster held possession the majority of the first five minutes as they looked to build through the phases and keep the ball in play just as they had done against Ulster in last week’s titanic Champions Cup battle, however, Benetton stood strong, defended excellently before finally forcing a knock-on from James Treacy.
Benetton were rewarded for their strong start when they scored the opening try after 13 minutes. Following some excellent mauling off the bakc of a lineout. It was the hooker, Luca Bigi, who crashed over for the game’s opening score leaving captain, Tommaso Allan with the easiest of conversions.
Leinster were able to get their first three points on board through a Noel Reid penalty before Allan retained Bennetton’s seven-point lead minutes later. Barry Daly at full-back started the brightest for Leinster making a couple of brilliant line breaks, however, Leo Cullen’s side were unable to make anything stick.
Disaster then struck for Leinster as out-half, Reid was forced off through injury and replaced by, Ciarán Frawley. It only took a couple of minutes for the youngster to settle his nerves as he converted a close-range penalty to bring Leinster back to within four with 15 minutes of the half remaining.
Benetton continued to put Leinster on the back foot and were camped on the home side’s try-line for three to four minutes, however, Leinster defending strongly and were able to turn the ball over.
The Italian side were, however, able to slot over one more penalty before the half-time whistle to put them 6-13 in front at the midway point.
It took to the 48th minute of the match but Leinster finally found themselves on level terms after James Lowe went over following some good forward play from Leinster followed by a Frawley conversion. It was Luke McGrath who started the play with a quick penalty before going through the phases and leaving Lowe to go over from five-yards out.
As is so often the case with this Leinster side, many would have expected them to kick on from here and go grab the victory, however, it was clear from the off that this Benetton side weren’t going to go away easy tonight and that proved to be the case as they took the game to Leinster and got their just rewards through Federico Ruzza who went over for their second try of the match.
The second-half had turned into a ding-dong battle at this stage, but Benetton stood strong and refused to wilt to the Leinster pressure as the game entered the final 20 minutes.
Benetton’s try was never going to be the one that clinched this game, however, and that proved to be the case when Bryan Byrne touched down after another fantastic maul following a lineout before Frawley converted to level the game up once more.
It was anybody’s game heading into the final ten minutes of the match and it looked as though Leinster would be coming out victorious following a brilliant try by Frawley.
That wasn’t the end, however, as Leinster had to withstand a tense final ten minutes as Benetton searched for the draw that they fully deserved and they eventually got it through Ratuva Tavuyara who went over the try-line on the 80th minute before Allan converted to leave the sides level at the final whistle.
Leinster: Barry Daly; Fergus McFadden, Conor O’Brien, Joe Tomane, James Lowe; Noel Reid, Luke McGrath (capt); Jack McGrath, James Tracy, Andrew Porter, Mick Kearney, Scott Fardy, Josh Murphy, Max Deegan, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Peter Dooley, Michael Bent, Jack Dunne, Scott Penny, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ciarán Frawley, Jimmy O’Brien.
Benetton Rugby: Jayden Hayward; Ratuva Tavuyara, Marco Zanon, Luca Morisi, Monty Ioane; Tommaso Allan (capt), Dewaldt Duvenage; Nicola Quaglio, Luca Bigi, Marco Riccioni, Irné Herbst, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Abraham Steyn, Toa Halafihi.
Replacements: Tomas Baravalle, Derrick Appiah, Simone Ferrari, Marco Lazzaroni, Giovanni Pettinelli, Tito Tebaldi, Antonio Rizzi, Alberto Sgarbi.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)