Pro14: Leinster out-muscle Benetton by 31-3 at Stadio Monigo
|Benetton (3) 3|
|Leinster (12) 31|
|Tries: A Byrne, Tracy, C O'Brien, Porter, Tomane Con: R Byrne 3|
Leinster restored their five-point lead at the top of Pro14 Conference B with a 31-3 win over hosts Benetton.
Adam Byrne, James Tracy, Conor O'Brien, Andrew Porter and Joe Tomane all scored in a ruthlessly effective display by the defending champions.
Antonio Rizzi kicked the only points for Benetton, who have not won four-in-a-row at Stadio Monigo since 2013.
The Italian side remain fourth in the conference table but now trail third-place Ulster by five points.
Leinster, who were without the likes of Johnny Sexton, Cian Healy and Garry Ringrose, will lose the rest of their Irish international contingent for their visit to Southern Kings in round eight while Benetton will aim to get back into play-off contention when they host Ulster on 3 November.
Leinster settle a score
Benetton upset Leinster by 17-15 when the two sides met at the RDS last April, ending the reigning champions' 29-game unbeaten run against Italian opposition in the process, and the Irish side were determined to avenge that defeat.
Captain Sean O'Brien had revealed that there was a scramble for places in the Leinster squad for the visit to Stadio Monigo and it was no surprise that the visitors scored within the opening five minutes.
The Leinster pack held onto the ball for three energy-sapping minutes as they pounded away at the Benetton line before scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park spotted some open space in the right corner and Adam Byrne won the race to his speculative chip.
Benetton were not intimidated by their opponents' fast start and spent much of the next 20 minutes camped in the Leinster half but their desire to run the ball at every opportunity against a dogged Blues' defence proved unwise as 20-year-old Rizzi's penalty was all they had to show for their efforts.
In contrast, Leinster seemed capable of scoring on every venture into their opponent's half with Tracy finishing-off a lineout maul to give his side a 12-3 half-time lead.
Scrappy second-half battle
Leo Cullen's Leinster once-again made an aggressive start to the second half as Tracy was denied another try from a lineout maul when the assistant referee spotted a foot in touch but the sheer effort required to defend their line began to take its toll on the home side.
A scrum in the 50th minute was the platform for the holders' third try as Max Deegan and the excellent Gibson-Park combined to find Conor O'Brien on an unstoppable burst for his first senior try.
The game became increasingly scrappy as the surface began to cut up underfoot but Leinster's bonus-point score arrived just before the hour mark when Benetton full-back Jayden Hayward was left isolated on a bouncing ball and the visitors piled through to regain possession with replacement prop Porter bulldozing over from six inches out.
Head coach Cullen emptied his bench with scrum-half Hugh O'Sullivan winning just his second cap while utility back Noel Reid took over at fly-half.
But the changes did little to blunt their attack as Tomane rounded-off the scoring in the 76th minute when Reid cleverly adjusted his feet to find his team-mate with a delicate chip-kick and the Australian wing held on to claim his first Leinster try.
Benetton: Hayward; Tavuyara, Brex, Sgarbi (capt), Ioane; Rizzi, Duvenage; Appiah, Faiva, Riccioni; Herbst, Ruzza; Pettinelli, Lamaro, Barbini
Replacements: Baravalle, De Marchi, Ferrari, Zanni, Lazzaroni, Tebaldi, Iannone, Esposito
Leinster: R Kearney; Byrne, O'Loughlin, Henshaw, Tomane; Byrne, Gibson-Park; McGrath, Tracy, Furlong; Fardy, Ryan; O'Brien (capt), Leavy, Deegan
Replacements: B Byrne, E Byrne, Porter, Molony, Ruddock, O'Sullivan, Reid, C O'Brien
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)