Pro14: Dragons 25-37 Benetton

By Nick WebbBBC Sport Wales
Pro14 highlights: Dragons 25-37 Benetton
Pro14
Dragons (13) 25
Tries: R Williams, Talbot-Davies, Dee Cons: Botica, Robson Pens: Botica 2
Benetton (17) 37
Tries: Sperandio, Barravalle, Esposito, Faiva Cons: Keatley 4 Pens: Keatley 3

Dragons slipped to their first home defeat since November as Benetton won 37-25 at Rodney Parade.

They missed the controlling influence of Wales squad fly-half Sam Davies, absent for the first time since that loss to Zebre.

Weak defence saw Benetton cross for tries through Luca Sperandio, Tomos Baravalle, Angelo Esposito and Haime Faiva. Ian Keatley kicked 17 points.

Rhodri Williams, Will Talbot-Davies and Elliot Dee scored Dragons' tries.

Another outstanding display by Wales squad flanker Taine Basham and the second half re-appearance of Wales hooker Dee after injury were minor consolations.

The Italian side were given permission to travel by the Pro14 after giving assurances that none of their players or staff had been in contact with anyone suffering from the coronavirus, and that supporters would be discouraged.

Benetton got off to a flying start when full-back Sperandio was put clear after wing Esposito easily got out-flanked the home defence after just four minutes.

Hooker Baravalle crashed over in a driving maul from a line-out after 13 minutes, with Keatley's two conversions putting his side 14-0 up.

Jacob Botica, making his first start at 10, kicked two penalties and hit the post with a third attempt before Keatley landed a three-pointer for the visitors.

A stunning sprint from young prop Josh Reynolds in the 40th minute saw skipper Williams run in a try converted by Botica, bringing Dragons back to a four-point deficit at the break.

The relief was short-lived as Esposito took advantage of some shocking tackling in the first minute of the second half to charge over from 45 metres, Keatley converting.

A needless yellow card for Harrison Keddie did not help the home cause and another two Keatley penalties put the result beyond doubt as Dragons got on the wrong side of referee George Clancy.

Talbot-Davies was gifted a Dragons try from a defensive howler, converted by Arwel Robson, but Kiwi hooker Faiva bagged the bonus point six minutes from time with Keatley converting.

Dee's close-range score with the last move of the game was not enough to earn Dragons any match points.

Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan told BBC Sport Wales:

"It was poor, disappointing on lots of fronts, I don't think we managed the game very well with two soft tries at the beginning of either half.

"We lost collective energy, people went off-script and started doing whatever they wanted and the missed tackle count was as high as we've had.

"(Sam Davies missing) is an opportunity for people to show what we've learnt, and today, we haven't, we lacked Sam's leadership.

"It's not a reality check to us, we've always understood the challenge of depth in this group but we don't have the resources (to recruit), we're about developing youngsters quickly."

Dragons: Talbot-Davies; Rosser, Warren, Dixon, Hewitt; Botica, Williams (capt); Reynolds, Shipp, Fairbrother, Davies, Screech, Keddie, Basham, Griffiths.

Replacements: Dee, Maguire, Coleman, Nansen, Evans, Baldwin, Robson, Edwards.

Benetton: Sperandio; Esposito, Brex, Zanon, Ioane; Keatley (capt), Trussardi; Quaglio, Baravalle, Alongi, Herbst, Snyman, Lamaro, Ruzza, Halafihi.

Replacements: Faiva, Zani, Di Stefano, Fuser, Pettinelli, Petrozzi, McKinley, Riera.

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)

Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse (WRU), Joy Neville (IRFU)

TMO: Leo Colgan (IRFU).

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