Benetton Rugby 20

Connacht 12

 

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht were defeated 20-12 by Benetton Rugby in a physical GuinnessPRO14 Rainbow Cup affair at Stadio Comunale di Monigo tonight. 

 

Despite scoring more tries than the hosts, thanks to Shane Delahunt and Paul Boyle dotting down, one of which Tom Daly converted, the Westerners couldn’t eke out the win. 

 

The hosts scored a try of their own — through centre Juan Ignacio Brex —  and the boot of Paolo Garbisi slotted five penalties to give the Italians the win, their fourth victory in succession. 

 

It was a momentous occasion for Denis Buckley, meanwhile, who made his 200th appearance for the province at the same stadium in which he made his debut in 2011.

 

With a dry track, both teams were intent to attack early on and it was Connacht who struck first blood. A powerful rolling maul surged its way towards the line and it was Delahunt who put the finishing touches on the move by diving over the line. Daly slotted the extras and the away team lead 7-0 inside the opening five minutes. 

 

To their credit, Benetton responded well and Brex — the former Argentinian age-grade centre — ran an arching line and collected a pass to run in a try. Garbisi was wide with his conversion attempt, but the home team — who knew a win would keep them in touch for a final berth — would have been content to be on the scoreboard. 

 

The game became more physical and broken after the exciting open ten minutes and it was the Italians who scored next with Garbisi — the Italian international fly half — twice kicking penalties to give the home team the lead at the break at 11-7.

 

Connacht immediately set about wrestling the momentum back in their favour and they were rewarded for their attitude when a second rolling maul bore try-scoring fruit. This time it was Boyle — who was transferred the ball by Delahunt — who touched down and the away team lead by the narrowest of margins, 12-11. 

 

It would be the Westerners last score, however, as the excellent Garbisi brought the Italian team back into the lead with a three pointer from the kicking tee and he added two more penalties late on — when Connacht were reduced to fourteen men after replacement Abraham Papali’i was sent off — to seal the win for the hosts. 

 

Connacht will entertain the Ospreys next weekend with a 6 pm kick-off on Friday evening. 

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9)

 

15: John Porch 

14: Peter Sullivan 

13: Bundee Aki 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Alex Wootton 

10: Conor Fitzgerald 

9: Kieran Marmion 

 

(8-1)

 

8: Paul Boyle 

7: Jarrad Butler 

6: Cian Prendergast 

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Niall Murray 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Shane Delahunt 

1: Denis Buckley 

 

Replacements: 

 Dave Heffernan for Delahunt  Paddy McAllister for Buckley Dominic Robertson McCoy for Bealham, Oising Dowling for Murray, Abraham Papali’i for Prendergast,  Caolin Blade for Marmion, Jack Carty for Fitzgerald,  Sammy Arnold for Porch.

Denis Buckley will become just the third Connacht player to reach 200 caps tomorrow after he was named in the starting XV to face Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup leaders Benetton in Italy (k/o 5.15pm Irish time).
 
The Roscommon prop made his debut for his home province in September 2011, which coincidentally came in the Stadio di Monigo where he will make appearance #200 tomorrow. He joins John Muldoon and Michael Swift as the only players to earn a double century of caps for Connacht.
 
The other notable inclusion is Bundee Aki’s return to the starting XV. Aki hasn’t featured for Connacht in nearly three months after serving a suspension following Ireland duty, and will now be keen to pick up some game-time before he travels with the British & Irish Lions to South Africa.
 
Aki partners Tom Daly in the centre who starts for the 15th consecutive game, while Alex Wootton, Peter Sullivan and John Porch form the back three. The backs are completed by scrum-half Kieran Marmion and out-half Conor Fitzgerald.
 
Shane Delahunt and Finlay Bealham partner Buckley in the front row, while Niall Murray and Cian Prendergast are retained after excelling away to Munster last time out. Murray partners Ultan Dillane in the second row, while Prendergast is joined in the back row by the returning Paul Boyle and captain Jarrad Butler.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“Denis Buckley’s 200th appearance tomorrow is a huge achievement for him personally and those that helped him along the way. Denis is a consummate professional who has shown determination and loyalty in the 10 years since his debut, and to reach a milestone like this for your home province makes it even sweeter for him.
It’s also great to welcome Bundee back to our starting XV. We’re playing a Benetton side who will be hugely motivated to hold on to 1st place in the table, but we’ve still got a lot to play for as well so it should make for a great game”.

 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS BENETTON RUGBY
Saturday 29th May, Stadio di Monigo, kick-off 5.15pm Irish time / 6.15pm local time
 
Name/Number/Caps
15. John Porch (39)
14. Peter Sullivan (15)
13. Bundee Aki (109)
12. Tom Daly (47)
11. Alex Wootton (20)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (35)
9. Kieran Marmion (185)
1. Denis Buckley (199)
2. Shane Delahunt (98)
3. Finlay Bealham (158)
4. Niall Murray (16)
5. Ultan Dillane (112)
6. Cian Prendergast (8)
7. Jarrad Butler (71) (C)
8. Paul Boyle (56)

Replacements
16. Dave Heffernan (143)
17. Paddy McAllister (17)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (66)
19. Oisin Dowling (5)
20. Abraham Papali’i (13)
21. Caolin Blade (130)
22. Jack Carty (157)
23. Sammy Arnold (14)

Bundee Aki has been released from Ireland duty to start for Connacht in Friday evening’s Guinness PRO14 clash away to Benetton Rugby (k/o 5.30pm Irish time).

Aki started in last week’s bonus point win over Cardiff Blues and will again play tomorrow in boost to Andy Friend’s side who look to make it three wins on the bounce in the PRO14.

Oisin Dowling has also been handed his first start for the province, having featured off the bench in the last two games.

Dowling is joined alongside Gavin Thornbury in the second row, with Paddy McAllister, Shane Delahunt and Finlay Bealham completing the tight five. The back row is unchanged from the win over Cardiff Blues last time out, with Paul Boyle at number 8 alongside flankers Eoghan Masterson and captain Jarrad Butler.

There’s a new-look half-back pairing with Kieran Marmion alongside Conor Fitzgerald, while Tom Daly partners Aki in the centre. Finally Tiernan O’Halloran is handed his first start in nearly two months after recovering from injury, taking his place at full-back with Alex Wootton and Peter Sullivan on the wings.

There’s an experienced look to the bench with centurions Denis Buckley, Caolin Blade and Jack Carty all included.

Head Coach Andy Friend says they are keen to give game-time to some players without disrupting the flow of a number of impressive team performances:

“This is a big day for Oisin getting his first start, and with Bundee released from Ireland duty and the likes of Tiernan and Kieran coming into the team also they bring a lot of experience with them. Overall we’ve named a very strong squad that is capable of keeping our winning run going.”

Friend also stressed the importance of treating each game like a cup final during this final run-in:

“I said at the start of this block of games that we realistically need 5 wins from 5 to have a chance of finishing top of the Conference, so this game is just as important as what’s gone before. Italy is always a tough place to get a win and we’ve seen from their last few performances that they’re getting closer to that first victory this season, so we have to be at our best to make sure that doesn’t come against us.”

CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS BENETTON RUGBY
Friday 26th February, Stadio Monigo, kickoff 5.30pm Irish time / 6.30pm local

Name/Number/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (188)
14. Peter Sullivan (9)
13. Tom Daly (39)
12. Bundee Aki (107)
11. Alex Wootton (14)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (29)
9. Kieran Marmion (177)
1. Paddy McAllister (15)
2. Shane Delahunt (91)
3. Finlay Bealham (151)
4. Oisin Dowling (2)
5. Gavin Thornbury (51)
6. Eoghan Masterson (103)
7. Jarrad Butler (67) (C)
8. Paul Boyle (51)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (12)
17. Denis Buckley (193)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (60)
19. Niall Murray (10)
20. Sean Masterson (9)
21. Caolin Blade (123)
22. Jack Carty (151)
23. John Porch (32)

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Defence coach Pete Wilkins insists Connacht will need to be defensively robust in order to win Friday’s 5:30 PM Guinness PRO14 game away to Benetton Rugby. 

 

The Westerners go into the game in good form, with consecutive league wins under their belt after last weekend’s 32-17 victory over the Cardiff Blues.

 

The Italians, meanwhile, are winless in eleven conference B games so far this season, but Wilkins believes that Connacht needs to be wary of their kicking game and their ability to quickly transition from defence to attack. 

 

“For me, I think Benetton’s biggest threat is coming out of their own half,” the former Queensland Reds’ defensive coach said of the Treviso-based team’s best tactical attribute. 

 

‘They kick long and effectively, in terms of the distances they get when they are exiting. But they are also very dangerous running out from that bit of the field. They are not afraid to take risks and offload out of tackles when they are coming out of their what we call C zone, coming out of that area between the 22-metre line and halfway.

 

“They will take risks and they will play to width. How we control them getting access to the ball will be really important in that regard. The quality of our kicking game, not conceding attacking turnovers in their half of the field, that will be important in terms of denying them access to the game. 

 

‘I think if we can squeeze them around that then, you’d hope that our quality would shine through. But if the game gets loose with them getting a lot of chaotic turnover ball doesn’t suit us, it suits them. So we will have to work our backsides off to make sure that if that does happen we control it really well and get back to controlling where they get the ball and in what part of the field.”

 

Connacht go into a block of four games in consecutive weeks, starting with Friday’s trip to Italy, and Wilkins says there is no set target other than trying to win every game and attempt to qualify for this season’s final.

 

“Similar to what Andy said, we’ve not put a hard goal on it, in terms of points or expected points. But we have been really open with each other in saying every game is a must-win and every game is a cup final. I know that’s easy to say, but it’s pretty literal in this sense. 

 

“If it does go down as the competition is expected to at the moment, there is only the one conference winner from each side that goes through to a final and we’re trying to hunt Munster down. Every game is a must-win and the bonus points play an important part in that,” the Englishman said. 

 

Meanwhile, lock Oisin Dowling said the positive environment created by the staff and players at Connacht has quickly helped him settle in at the club. 

 

Alex Wootton, who joined the Sportsground team at the beginning of the current season, recently hailed the culture within the Westerners squad’ and playing staff as a big factor in helping him acclimate after joining the province from Munster.

 

Dowling, 23, who recently joined Andy Friend’s team from Leinster, agrees with Wootton and said that the entire squad and backroom staff get on well and this has made his adaptation easier. 

 

“Yeah, 100%,” the forward said when asked whether he has settled in well on and off the pitch with Connacht. 

 

“Obviously there’s a difference between coaches and players, but everyone gets on really well, like friends. There’s always good craic between each other and I think that helps the team and the bond with the players and the coaches.”

 

Dowling was sidelined with a back injury when he joined the province, but the lock says that the time gave him the opportunity to get up to speed with the demands of the Westerners’ tactical systems. 

 

The 6’5” former Lansdowne club man is now looking forward to applying what he has learned during his injury on the pitch for the remainder for the season.

 

“When I came in, I was injured so I had time to get to grips with it more and kinda just watch how it works a bit more. So then, once I started playing again, it was kind of easier when I knew all the systems. 

 

“I had taken everything in and learned all the plays and it’s a bit easier when you’re able to watch a lot of training sessions and games, you

Flanker Jarrad Butler and prop Denis Buckley have returned to the Connacht side to face Benetton Rugby in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday (Kick off 12pm Irish time). Tiernan O’Halloran, who missed the game against Zebre last week with a short-term injury is also back in Kieran Keane’s starting XV.

Having come through a full 80 minutes last weekend, flanker Sean O’Brien is named at blindside in an experienced back row that includes Butler and veteran captain John Muldoon.

Jack Carty is named at out half where he will form a half back pairing with Caolin Blade.

The squad is also boosted by the return of Niyi Adeolokun from injury and Ultan Dillane from international duty, with both named among the replacements. Dillane will return to Irish camp after the clash in Italy.

The clash with Benetton on Saturday will form the first leg of a tour for Connacht which will take mostly the same personnel on to Bloemfontein in South Africa to play the Cheetahs on Saturday 3rd of March.

Speaking ahead of the two away fixtures, Head Coach Kieran Keane emphasised the importance of having depth in the squad. “We have a number of players coming back from injury which will be a big boost against Treviso on Saturday. They are on a great run of wins and I’m sure they will be targeting us especially when they have been so competitive at home this season”, Keane said.

“The majority of the squad will travel on to South Africa, but we have put plans in place for replacements to join the squad after the game in Italy. These two games will really test the depth of our squad and we will need to be at our best if we want to win them”, he added.

 

#BENvCON

Kick-off 12pm (Irish Time):

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Capt).

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Denis Coulson, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.

An extended Connacht Squad of 25 will travel to Italy to take on Benetton Rugby on Saturday (K.O. 12pm – Irish Time). From there they will make the journey to South Africa where they will take on the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein for the very first time on Saturday 3rd of March.

Ahead of the tour, our Medical Team have issued the following Squad Update.

Prop:
Denis Buckley will integrate into team training this week following his recovery from ankle surgery in early January.

Conor Carey injured his shoulder in the game versus Zebre and is awaiting the results of a scan to determine the extent of the injury.

 

JP Cooney is recovering from hamstring surgery and will be out of action until April.

Hooker:
Pat O’Toole is continuing his rehabilitation for his hamstring injury under the supervision of the medical and performance team.

Lock:

Andrew Browne is containing his recovery from the shoulder injury he sustained against Ospreys last week and will be out of action for 4-6 weeks.

 

Back Row:
Eoin McKeon is nearing a return to team training following his calf injury.

Jake Heenan is continuing his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery and will be out of action until April.

Centre:
Peter Robb will integrate into team training this week following his recovery from a hamstring injury last month.

 

Back Three:

Tiernan O’Halloran is nearing a return to team training following his hamstring injury.

 

The fixture details have been confirmed for Rounds 14-17 of the Guinness PRO14 Championship, which include a back-to-back double header at The Sportsground against Conference A rivals in February.

 

On Friday 9th February we host Ospreys in the first of two vital Conference A clashes. After a 7 day turn around, Michael Bradley’s Zebre will visit the Sportsground for a Friday night fixture.

 

The following weeks sees two significant away fixtures. First stop is Treviso where we will take on Benetton Rugby at the the Stadio Comunale di Monigo on Saturday 24th March. The squad will travel from there to Bloemfontein in South Africa for the first time in the return fixture against the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday 3rd March.

 

GUINNESS PRO14 ROUNDS 14-17

Friday 9th February, 7.35pm
Connacht v Ospreys

Friday 16th February, 7.35pm
Connacht v Zebre

Saturday 24th February, 1.00pm (12.00pm Irish Time)
Benetton Rugby v Connacht

Saturday 3rd March, 7.35pm (5.35pm Irish Time)
Toyota Cheetahs v Connacht

 

Ticket details for these fixtures will be announced soon.

Remember you can give the perfect gift this Christmas with the Connacht Christmas Cracker which includes access to all five home games in the new year.

 

Ahead of Sunday’s Guinness PRO12 game away to Benetton Treviso, the Connacht Rugby medical team have provided the following update.

Andrew Browne (ankle) has recovered from his ankle injury and will integrate fully into training this week.

Stacey Ili (ankle), Bundee Aki (ankle) and Eoin Griffin (chest) have recovered from their respective injuries and will integrate fully into training this week.

Cian Kelleher (hamstring) has recovered from his hamstring injury and will integrate fully into training this week.

Benetton Treviso v Connacht Rugby
Sunday 26 February
At Stadio Monigo, 1.30pm local time (12.30pm Ireland & UK)

Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 57th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (WRU), Guiseppe Vivarini (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Marco Cordelli (FIR)

 

BENETTON RUGBY TREVISO v CONNACHT RUGBY 

Sunday 26 February
At Stadio Monigo, 1.30pm local time (12.30pm Ireland & UK).

Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 57th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (WRU), Guiseppe Vivarini (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Marco Cordelli (FIR)

Did you know?

  • Benetton Rugby Treviso’s most recent victory was 23-12 at home to Zebre on 23 December. Their only other victory at Stadio Monigo in the Guinness PRO12 this season was against Newport Gwent Dragons in round 4.
  • Connacht Rugby have won their last two Guinness PRO12 encounters but have not won three in a row in the regular season since March.
  • The Irishmen won their most recent away game in the Championship at Cardiff Blues in round 14 – their first away win for 11 months.
  • Connacht have lost only one of their last six fixtures with Treviso: 21-22 at Stadio Monigo in round 21 of the PRO12 last season.

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:

Played 13, Treviso won 4, Connacht won 8 with 1 game drawn.

 

HEAD TO HEAD – RECENT GUINNESS PRO12 MEETINGS
Date Venue B C Benetton Rugby Treviso scorers Connacht scorers
Sat 1 Mar 14 Sportsground 6 38 Mat Berquist(2P) Eoin McKeon(T) Kieran Marmion(T) Fionn Carr(T) Dan Parks(4C/P) John Muldoon(2T) Miah Nikora(C)
Fri 10 Oct 14 Stadio Monigo 6 9 Jayden Hayward(2P) Craig Ronaldson(3P)
Sun 1 Mar 15 Sportsground 5 53 Sam Christie(T) Matt Healy(2T) Tiernan O’Halloran(T) Danie Poolman(T) Denis Buckley(T) Jake Heenan(T) Aly Muldowney(T) Craig Ronaldson(6C/2P)
Fri 6 Nov 15 Sportsground 19 33 Edoardo Gori(T) Jayden Hayward(2T/2C) Matt Healy(T) Robbie Henshaw(T) Tom McCartney(T) Craig Ronaldson(3C/4P)
Fri 29 Apr 16 Stadio Monigo 22 21 Braam Steyn(T) Jayden Hayward(2C/P) Luca Morisi(T) Penalty Try(T) Rory Parata(T) John Cooney(3C) Fionn Carr(T) Peter Robb(T)
Sat 3 Dec 16 Sportsground 8 47 Braam Steyn(T) Ian McKinley(P) Danie Poolman(T) Dave Heffernan(T) Denis Buckley(T) John Cooney(T/4C) Marnitz Boshoff(C) Jack Carty(T/C) Tom McCartney(2T)

 

 

COMPARISON Treviso Connacht
Last 3 PRO12 results: 6 Jan – Dragons (A) L 8-26 7 Jan – Ospreys (A) L 7-29
  12 Feb – Leinster (H) L 14-40 12 Feb – Cardiff Blues (A) W 19-13
  18 Feb – Cardiff Blues (A) L 20-57 18 Feb – Dragons (H) W 14-9
 
PRO12 2016/17 11th – W2 D0 L13 – 11pts 8th – W6 D0 L8 – 29pts
Last 6 PRO12 form lWLlLl (5pts) WlLlwW (14pts)
Top try scorer 4 – Dean Budd 4 – Niyi Adeolokun
Top points scorer 66 – Tommaso Allan 68 – Jack Carty

 

 

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