Benetton 17, Leinster 61
Leinster boss Leo Cullen saw his side jump back to the top of the United Rugby Championship on Saturday with a 61-17 trouncing of Italian side Benetton at Stadio Monigo.
However, the former Ireland international second-row was quick to point out the extenuating circumstances surrounding the big win at a venue where Leinster have found the going tough in recent years.
“We know Benetton are probably the team in the league that are the most affected by international call-ups,” Cullen said.
“They’re missing over 20 players. It’s really tough on them. But, we’re still pleased with our guys. We’ve come away from home and acquitted ourselves well.
“We’ve soon how tight it is at the top of the league in particular after teams coming up with some big wins on Friday night so this was important.”
Max Deegan barged over for an early lead and Seán Cronin extended it, but not before Rhyno Smith got Benetton off the mark from the kicking tee.
Harry Byrne making way after half an hour will likely be Cullen’s main concern from the contest, a rib injury picked up last week bothering the Leinster centre after one of those crunching tackles from the Treviso men.
However, they quickly faded and that allowed Jordan Larmour and Ross Byrne, player of the match with 19 points, to cross and seal a first-half bonus point.
More followed after the break as Cronin completed his double before his replacement James Tracy would manage the same after a couple of opportunistic efforts from Nicola Piantella and Lorenzo Cannone made it more respectable for Benetton. Jimmy O’Brien picked off two late on, with the full-back converting one for good measure in the absence of both Byrnes.
“We have a very, very tough challenge coming up next week,” Cullen added. “Ulster have fewer players away in international camp so we know they’ll have that strong sense of cohesion, a good experienced team.
“They’ve already beaten us at the end of the November window and there’s plenty of distractions that day with Ireland playing England but we’ll knuckle down now and get ready.”
BENETTON – A Coetzee; L Pani, J Riera (M Zanon 49), F Drago, R Smith; T Albornoz, A Garbisi (L Petrozzi 58); F Zani (M Drudi h-t), C Els (T Baravalle 49), N Tetaz (C Traore 46); N Piantella (A Izekor 53), C Wegner (T Bell 60); M Meggiato, L Cannone, T Halafihi (B Steyn 42).
LEINSTER – J O’Brien; J Larmour (R O’Loughlin 63), J Osborne, H Byrne (D Kearney 30), T O’Brien; R Byrne (D Toner 74), L McGrath (C Foley 63); P Dooley (E Byrne 52), S Cronin (J Tracy 52), T Clarkson (M Ala’alatoa 52); R Molony, J McCarthy; R Ruddock (Penny 58-61), S Penny (D Leavy 56), M Deegan.
REF – B Whitehouse (WRU)