Glasgow Warriors 18
FOR the second time this season, Benetton’s teenage stand-off Leonardo Marin kicked three points in injury-time to snatch a home victory for his team over Scottish opposition. He did it with a drop-goal against Edinburgh in round two, and on this occasion it was a penalty which put Glasgow Warriors to the sword. All credit to the young man’s nerve, but the beaten team must look at themselves for an explanation as to why this game slipped through their fingers.
With the match clock just shy of 79 minutes, Warriors had possession in Benetton’s 22, but they the conceded three penalties in quick succession – for getting isolated at a ruck, for a high tackle by Sione Tuipulotu on Rhyno Smith, and for pulling down a line-out jumper – which gifted Marin that late opportunity to claim the win.
The manner of the defeat will sting the players and it could be a far more painful memory at the end of the season, with Benetton one of Glasgow’s big rivals in the battle for play-off and European Champions Cup qualification.
“As I’ve just said to the players, due to terrible discipline we spent the whole of the second half inside our own 22,” lamented Warriors head coach Danny Wilson. “The effort is there. It is excellent. There is lot of doggedness to hold on and not cave on our own try-line. But the amount of penalties we gave away to put ourselves in a position to lose that game is not good enough.
“With a minute and a half to go, we manage to go from their try-line and give away a penalty for a contact area infringement, a penalty for a high tackle and a penalty for throwing ourselves across the line-out. They are just ridiculous penalties which have handed them the game, if I am being honest with you.
“We have to learn our lessons because our discipline today has massively let us down, and from a position to win the game we end up losing the game, so we probably deserved what we got.”
The match got off to a disastrous start for the visitors when Benetton full-ball Smith rose unchallenged to collect George Horne‘s clearance box-kick, set off down the right touchline, then collected his own chip over the final defender to streak home unchallenged with just 35 seconds played.
Unlike the last time these two sides met at this venue back in April, Warriors refused to be ruffled by that early set-back, with winger Rufus McLean making some amends for a few uncharacteristic errors in the opening minutes by chasing down Ross Thompson‘s clever kick and bundling Eduardo Padovani back over his own try-line. That established the field position from which Jack Dempsey blasted his way home following a period of tight driving play.
Thompson couldn’t manage the conversion from halfway between the posts and the left touchline, but he had no problem taking the three easy points on offer a few minutes later when Benetton were penalised for preventing Horne from getting the ball away quickly from a ruck in front of the posts.
That put the visitors ahead, but only briefly, with a Matt Fagerson offside straight from the restart allowing the hosts to kick to the corner, and although the line-out drive was scrappy, Giovanni Pettinelli sniffed out an opportunity coming back towards the right touchline and spun off to score. Marin was again off target with the conversion.
Benetton came again, kicking a Rob Harley high tackle into the corner, and, after a sustained bombardment of the Warriors line, it looked like Smith was going to go over for his second try, but he couldn’t quite hold onto the final pass, so the hosts had to make do with three-points from a Marin penalty instead.
Warriors reclaimed the lead with five minutes of the first half to play when their line-out drive trotted all the way to the scoring zone against some pretty feeble Benetton resistance, allowing Rory Darge to get the downward pressure, with Thompson converting.
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Benetton lost their captain, Michele Lamaro, to the sin-bin after three minutes of the second half, when he flopped over the tackled man less than 90 seconds after referee Marius can der Westhuizen had given the home team a final warning about the frequency with which they were committing this sort of offence.
To rub salt into the wound, Thompson kicked the three points on offer, but Warriors failed to take any further advantage of that 10 minute period with an extra man, as the game continued to follow the disjointed pattern of the first half.
Even before Lamaro had returned to the field, Benetton had taken control, and the hosts continued ratcheting up the pressure after returning to full strength. But it was all just a bit blunt meaning it took until the 63rd minute before they managed to score again, when Marin slotted the points from a not-rolling-away penalty.
Benetton kept their foot on the gas, and were assisted by some self-destructive stuff from Warriors, such as replacement stand-off Duncan Weir sending a goal-line drop-out out on the full, which handed the hosts a scrum five with just 10 minutes to play. Then an offside penalty conceded straight from that set-piece gave Marin a chance to put his side ahead, but the 19-year-old dragged his effort to the left of the posts on this occasion.
Having ridden their luck, Warriors manage to get themselves in there strike zone when a powerful line-out drive made good ground and Johnny Matthews burst clear, but a fumble on the Benetton line a few phases later prevented what would have been the decisive score.
Instead, Warriors paid a heavy price for that succession of three penalties conceded in the final minute, with Marin showing plenty of nerve to kicking the injury-time winner, having missed a slightly easier penalty opportunity a few moments earlier.
“Horrendous – but there was a lot in that game which were penalties we should never give away,” reflected Wilson, when asked about that disastrous finale. “We need to learn the lesson because we speak about discipline too often. We need to learn the lesson because those sorts of scenarios are continually hurting us.
“When we look back we will look at the individuals who gave away the penalties away,” h added. “There are two types of penalty – there are dumb ones and ones when you take a gamble that doesn’t pay off. It is the dumb penalties we need to stop giving away. So, we need to look back and say which ones were dumb and which ones weren’t.”
Benetton: R Smith; R Tavuyara, T Menoncello, L Morisi (J Riera 53), E Padovani; L Marin, D Duvenage (A Garbisi, 70); F Zani (T Baravalle 54), G Lucchesi (C Els 54), T Pasquali (I Nemer 41), C Wegner (N Cannone 54), F Ruzza, G Pettinelli, M Lamaro,, T Halafihi (M Zuliani 48).
Glasgow Warriors: C Forbes; K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, S Johnson, R McLean (O Smith 66); R Thompson (D Weir 66), G Horne (J Dobie 53); J Bhatti (N McBeth 77), G Turner (J Matthews 66), O Kebble (E Pieretto 46), R Harley (K McDonald 53), R Gray, M Fagerson (T Gordon 74), R Darge, J Dempsey.
Referee: Marius can der Westhuizen
Benetton: Tries: Smith, Pettinelli; Pen: Marin 3.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Dempsey, Darge; Con: Thompson; Pen: Thompson 2.
Scoring sequence (Benetton first): 5-0; 5-5; 5-8; 10-8; 13-8; 13-13; 13-15 (h-t) 13-18; 16-18; 19-18.
Yellow cards –
Benetton: Lamaro (43mins)