Leonardo Marin’s last-gasp penalty snatched victory away from Glasgow Warriors this afternoon, as Benetton claimed a 19-18 victory at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo as the United Rugby Championship returned.
Tries from Jack Dempsey and Rory Darge had put Glasgow on the precipice of a valuable win, only for ill-discipline to hand the hosts an opportunity to take all four points.
Having set their minds on atoning for their most recent visit to the Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Glasgow’s start turned out to be exactly what they had hoped to avoid. Rhyno Smith soared highest to claim George Horne’s clearing box-kick from the opening kick-off, before beating the defence on the outside and chipping ahead. The full-back had ample pace to regather his own kick and dive over for the score, giving his side a 5-0 lead with just a minute on the clock.
With Leonardo Marin’s conversion drifting wide, Glasgow set about re-setting and focused on their task in hand. It would be two of the club’s young stars who would provide the catalyst for their opening score, as the pace of Rufus McLean forced Eduardo Padovani to carry Thompson’s kick over his own line at the expense of a scrum.
It would be indirectly from that scrum that the Warriors would strike. After Benetton jumped the gun in defence of Dempsey’s powerful pick and go, a tap and go from George Turner saw the visitors edge to within five metres. That was no trouble for Dempsey, though, as the Australian picked the perfect line to power over for his second try in as many outings and level the scores.
A frenetic opening quarter would end with Glasgow in front, as both sides probed for a gap in the defensive line. Matt Fagerson’s lung-busting carry through the middle set the platform for Cole Forbes to attack on the fringe, with Benetton only halting the attack by going off their feet at the ruck. From just inside the Benetton 22 Thompson made no mistake from the tee, giving Glasgow an 8-5 lead on 19 minutes.
That lead would last all of two minutes, however, as Benetton hit back almost immediately. After referee Marius van der Westhuizen penalised Glasgow for going offside in their kick-chase, a kick to the corner eventually saw Giovanni Pettinelli bundle his way over in the corner. The conversion drifted wide, but Benetton had the lead once more.
Marin extended their advantage on 28 minutes after phases of sustained pressure eventually yielded a penalty in front of the posts. Yet it would be the Warriors who went into the interval with their noses in front; after Thompson elected to kick to the corner, the Glasgow pack went to work. A textbook lineout saw Turner find Richie Gray, with the resulting maul seeing Darge driven over the line for the score, Thompson’s conversion giving the visitors a 15-13 lead at the break.
Benetton were walking on thin ice at the breakdown with referee van der Westhuizen, and it was one that eventually would see them fall foul of the officials. Lamaro was the man to pay the price as he saw yellow on 43 minutes, Thompson kicking the resulting penalty to extend Glasgow’s lead to a five-point margin.
Yet for the extent of the sin-bin period, it would be Benetton who would set about establishing themselves in Glasgow territory. Time and time again, though, they found their path blocked; whether it was by a midfield hit from Johnson, or a set-piece steal from Gray, each Warrior fronted up to deny their hosts at every turn.
Marin would eventually narrow the deficit on 64 minutes, penalising the Warriors for a high tackle by slotting a penalty from 35 metres out. The young fly-half would falter when presented with the chance to hand his side the lead with seven minutes to play, though, pulling his shot at goal wide of the left-hand upright.
Having soaked up wave after wave of Benetton pressure, Glasgow went on the attack themselves as the game entered its closing stages. A powerful rolling maul almost sent Johnny Matthews on a clear path to the try-line, whilst Ollie Smith was just inches away from evading a Benetton tackler and arcing over out wide.
One final twist would sting Glasgow and their supporters, though. With the clock in the red, a lineout infringement handed Marin the chance to win the game for the Italian side. It was a chance he duly took, to the delight of the home faithful and dismay of all of a Glasgow persuasion.
Kick-off 5:30 pm