An inspired Benetton performance condemned Glasgow Warriors to defeat in their opening Rainbow Cup match, with the Italian side running in six tries for a 46-19 victory at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo.
Despite the Warriors making the most of the early running, it was Benetton who would strike first with a try out of nothing after two minutes. Sam Johnson’s kick ahead was blocked by Marco Zanon, with the Italian centre regathering and racing away. Whilst Nick Grigg got back to chop him down, Zanon’s offload was perfectly placed for Monty Ioane, who held off the chasing Cole Forbes to touch down for the game’s first try. Paolo Garbisi converted, and the hosts led 7-0.
Not content with one early try, the hosts would then hit their visitors with a sucker punch just two minutes later. A half -break and offload from Riccardo Favretto put Niccolo Cannone in behind the Glasgow defence, with the big second-rower fending off the scrambling George Horne to touch down. Garbisi was on target again and suddenly the hosts led 14-0.
With a stoppage for a head injury to Oli Kebble taking some of the early sting out of the match, both sides struggled to retain the ball for multiple phases. An error-strewn passage of play ultimately resulted in Benetton’s third try of the half, as an overthrown lineout from the Warriors led to Cannone breaking through the middle for his second score. A first-ever captain’s challenge from Glasgow was dismissed, leaving the hosts with a 21-0 advantage following Garbisi’s conversion, a score that would remain untul the interval.
Whilst Horne would come close to notching a try just seconds into the second half after good work from Fotu Lokotui, it would be Benetton who would be first to trouble the scorers with a Garbisi penalty extending the lead to 24-0 on 51 minutes.
Knowing they needed the next score, Glasgow thought they’d done just that just before the hour-mark. A turnover in midfield saw Ian Keatley spin the ball wide, with good interplay sending Cole Forbes over the line. However, after a captain’s challenge by Benetton, the try was ruled out for a high shot by Johnson on Sarto, and the penalty was awarded to the hosts.
As if to rub salt in the wound, the penalty would directly lead to the bonus-point score for Benetton. A well-worked lineout move sent Halafihi through a hold and over the line, Garbisi converting for a 31-0 lead.
Worse was to come for the visitors just four minutes later. Another penalty kicked to the corner allowed Garbisi to send Zanon flying towards the line, and whilst the Warriors denied the centre’s initial burst they were unable to prevent Michele Lamaro touching down under the posts. The easy two points were added by Garbisi, and Benetton’s lead was over 40.
Having had one try denied by one of the new law variations, though, Forbes was soon to benefit from another. When Sarto’s break for the line saw the winger knock the ball on in the act of grounding, referee Marius Mitrea awarded a goal-line drop-out. Keatley was alive to the situation, dropping the ball perfectly into the arms of Forbes. The full-back had a 90 metre run-in for his first Glasgow try, Keatley converting well from the touchline for the full seven points.
Back came Benetton once more, with the hosts notching their sixth try of the match with six minutes to play. It came in traditional Benetton style, as Gianmarco Lucchesi was smuggled over by a five-metre maul for the score. Garbisi was errant from the tee for the first time, but at 43-7 the result was in no doubt.
Glasgow finished with a flourish, however, with Keatley at the heart of things in the closing stages. After Garbisi was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on, the Irish fly-half was on hand to take Ali Price’s pass and bundle over the line for his first try in Glasgow colours with 77 minutes played.
The Warriors then grabbed their third try with a minute to play, after a breathless passage of play. A burst from Grant Stewart took the hooker from his own 22 into Benetton territory, before Rufus McLean kept the ball alive as he raced into the Benetton 22. Ali Price’s dart caught the Benetton defence off-guard, and whilst his offload was batted back by Lucchesi, Grigg was on hand to pick up and touch down under the posts. Keatley converted, as the Warriors chased an unlikely try bonus-point of their own.
In the end, however, it was not to be. Eduardo Padovani’s penalty with the clock in the red sealed the win for Benetton, leaving the Warriors empty-handed on a chastening afternoon in Treviso.
Kick-off 12:15 pm