Brutal Benetton claim league win
Brutal Benetton Rugby underlined their play-off credentials in the Guinness PRO14 as the in-form Italians blitzed Dragons 57-7 at Stadio Monigo.
Tries from Antonio Rizzi (2), Ratuva Tavuyara, Luca Sperandio and Monty Ioane in the opening 35 minutes put the fluent free-flowing hosts in complete control.
Wing Jared Rosser hit back just before the break - after a sublime break from scrum half Rhodri Williams – but the Italians still opened up a commanding 31-7 lead at the break.
Benetton are currently flying high in Conference B – the Italian outfit had picked up 23 points from their last six encounters, with only Leinster and Munster having tallied more, before this game.
And the second half saw them continue to build the score as Giovanni Pettinelli, Niccolò Cannone (2) and Robert Barbieri went over for the impressive home side.
Dragons made four changes for the clash in Italy, with Lewis Evans back in the pack while Jason Tovey, Jack Dixon and Zane Kirchner returned to the starting line-up.
Williams and Will Talbot-Davies took high kicks into the sun before a strip tackle allowed Dragons to kick in behind and force an early five-metre lineout that was lost forward.
Benetton launched a first attack after a penalty against Williams for a deliberate knock-on and a second, for not rolling away, saw the Italians kick to the corner.
The driving lineout was stopped quickly, but a flat pass from scrum half Dewalt Duvenage found half back partner Rizzi who exploited a gap and dived under the posts.
Tavuyara claimed a second score after a moment of individual brilliance as he kicked ahead down the left wing and beat the covering defence to touch down, with the TMO awarding the try.
Benetton looked threatening on every occasion with ball in hand as they kept the ball alive before a grubber kick in behind just ran dead with Tavuyara lurking.
However, there was no stopping Rizzi as the number nine dotted down after a brilliant offload from Tavuyara allowed the scrum half to wriggle over and convert his own score.
The bonus point arrived on the half hour as more slick handling out wide freed up space for full back Luca Sperandio to sprint over.
A fifth try arrived after a neat step inside from wing Ioane saw him blast past two tackles and dot down in the corner to send the home support wild.
Dragons hit back on the stroke of half-time as a superb run from Williams from the back of a scrum saw him show his raw pace to blaze away and Rosser dotted down from close range.
The Benetton waves of attack continued after the interval with back row forward Giovanni Pettinelli powering over from close range.
A brilliant last ditch tackle from Morgan denied Tavuyara a second, as the centre hauled him into touch as he looked to cross in the corner after a stunning break down the middle from Sperandio.
The seventh try, though, came for Benetton just before the hour mark and was the result of more outstanding offloading and inventive as lock Cannone crashed in.
The second row added his second six minutes later as he swatted off tackles after a quick lineout caught Dragons cold.
Replacement Tommaso Iannone had a try chalked off after the TMO intervened to show the ball was held up after great work from Morgan in defence.
The final word went to the hosts when Robert Barbieri crashed over from close range in the final moments.
15m Rizzi t Rizzi c 7-0
20m Tavuyara t 12-0
27m Rizzi t Rizzi c 19-0
30m Sperandio t Rizzi c 26-0
36m Ioane t 31-0
39m Rosser t Tovey c 31-7
44m Pettinelli t 36-7
55m Cannone t Rizzi c 43-7
61m Cannone t Rizzi c 50-7
78m Barbieri t Rizzi c 57-7
Benetton Rugby: Luca Sperandio (Iannone 56), Ratuva Tavuyara, Tommaso Benvenuti (Zanon 70), Alberto Sgarbi, Monty Ioane, Antonio Rizzi, Dewaldt Duvenage (Bronzini 55); Derrick Appiah (De Mrchi 47), Tomas Baravalle (Makelara 47), Marco Riccioni (Di Stefano 47), Irné Herbst, Niccolò Cannone (Barbini 62), Marco Lazzaroni, Giovanni Pettinelli, Toa Halafihi (Barbeieri 41)
Substitutes: Engjel Makelara, Alberto De Marchi, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Robert Barbieri, Marco Barbini, Giorgio Bronzini, Marco Zanon, Tommaso Iannone
Dragons: Zane Kirchner (Warren 62 (Keddie 74)), Jared Rosser, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon, Will Talbot-Davies, Jason Tovey (Lewis 45), Rhodri Williams (Davies 59); Brok Harris (Fawcett 59), Richard Hibbard (Lawrence 32-36), Lloyd Fairbrother (Suter 72), Lewis Evans (Lawrence 61), Matthew Screech, Harri Keddie (Kirchner 64), Ollie Griffiths (Davies 23), James Benjamin (Basham 21)
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Rhys Fawcett, Dan Suter, Joe Davies, Taine Basham, Rhodri Davies, Josh Lewis, Adam Warren
Referee: Quinton Immelman (SARU, 18th competition game)