Challenge Cup – Benetton Rugby Reached Semi-final For Second Year In A Row After Win Over Connacht Rugby


Benetton Rugby reached the EPCR Challenge Cup semi-final stage for the second year in a row after a 39-14 win over Connacht Rugby at the Stadio Monigo.

Tomas Albornoz crossed twice and kicked two conversions for a personal tally of 14, the fly-half named player of the match for the quarter-final.

They will now play Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm in the semi-final as they look to become the first Italian club to reach the final of an EPCR competition.

It was Connacht Rugby who opened the scoring on a sunny afternoon in the north of Italy, hooker Dave Heffernan forcing his way over with fly-half JJ Hanrahan converting, but a series of errors form the Irish club saw Benetton Rugby score four without reply.

Hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi and centre Tommaso Menoncello went over whilst Darragh Murray was in the sin-bin before both full-back Rhyno Smith and Albornoz capitalised on some poor decision-making.

Albornoz converted twice and Jacob Umaga also added a set of extras to give the Italian club a commanding lead, but the Irish province was able to spark some hope of a comeback amongst their travelling supporters with No.8 Paul Boyle bundling over for a converted score with the clock in the red.

An Umaga penalty got the scoring underway in the second half, leaving Connacht Rugby trailing by 15 with half an hour to play.

There were signs that a comeback might be on the cards when centre Bundee Aki went over for an unconverted score, but another Umaga penalty dented those hopes before Albornoz killed the game off with his excellent second converted score, turning over the ball at a breakdown before chasing down his own kick.

Replacement Conor Oliver grabbed a consolation for Connacht Rugby, but it was Benetton Rugby’s day at the Stadio Monigo.

Benetton Rugby: Tries: Gianmarco Lucchesi, Tommaso Menoncello, Rhyno Smith, Tomas Albornoz (2). Conversions: Tomas Albornoz (2), Jacob Umaga (2). Penalties: Jacob Umaga (2).
Connacht: Tries: Dave Heffernan, Paul Boyle, Bundee Aki, Conor Oliver. Conversions: JJ Hanrahan.


Benetton Rugby: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Ignacio Mendy, 13 Tommaso Menoncello, 12 Juan Ignacio Brex, 11 Onisi Ratave, 10 Tomas Albornoz, 9 Alessandro Garbisi, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Michele Lamaro (c), 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Thomas Gallo. Replacements: 16 Bautista Bernasconi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Alessandro Izekor, 21 Lorenzo Cannone, 22 Andy Uren, 23 Jacob Umaga.

Connacht Rugby: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Andrew Smith, 13 David Hawkshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Shane Jennings, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Caolin Blade (c), 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Darragh Murray, 4 Joe Joyce, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley. Replacements: 16 Eoin de Buitlear, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Sam Illo, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Matthew Devine, 22 Cathal Forde, 23 Tom Farrell.