Italian nightmare continues as Benetton down Stormers

rugby11 November 2023 17:20
By:Brenden Nel
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Stormers @ Gallo Images

Benetton Treviso continued the Italian nightmare for South African sides in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship as they downed the DHL Stormers 20-17 in a highly competitive game in Treviso on Saturday night.

The Italian side followed up their neighbours Zebre Parma’s historic win over the Sharks by making it two from two this weekend against South African sides and continued the poor from of local franchises while on tour in Europe.

At the time of the loss only the Bulls had won away from home from all of the South African sides, as the coastal franchises continued to struggle without their Springbok players.

Benetton though, were full value for their victory and followed up their win over the Lions last week and Cardiff in week one of the championship to remain unbeaten for the season.

Their other game resulted in a draw with Munster, showing the Italian team are not easy-beats by a long shot and certainly have laid down a marker in this year’s competition.

But the Stormers will have a lot of questions about their own performance, from game management to missed kicks as they struggled to contain the Italian side in front of a partisan home crowd.

While Jean-Luc du Plessis missed a few early kicks, the decision to turn down penalties in front of posts in the second half was also inexplicable and contributed to the Stormers making life a lot harder for themselves than it could have been.

More than that, there are some genuine questions about the form of some players, including marquee players such as Warrick Gelant and Joseph Dweba, both who made some crucial errors during the game while the Stormers lineout was never on song either.

The last thing that the Stormers would have wanted was to get caught in an arm wrestle, yet that is how they started the game, and how they tried to force territory on the home side, often with good effect.

The change really started to hurt them when they were forced into a game of width, as Benetton’s defence found ways of scrambling to stop them when they needed to show more patience on attack.

Either way Benetton will not be taken lightly by any South African team in future, and the Stormers have some bigger issues to contend with, especially as they now haven’t won an away game since their win over Zebre in October 2022.

While home form and wins over South African franchises in derbies has gotten them to two consecutive finals, Dobson won’t be happy with that stat and will demand more from them as the tour continues.

There were some good touches, from Neethling Fouche to Ben-Jason Dixon, both who are consistent performers, but all too often there was too much smoke and mirrors and not enough strikeforce.

Ruben Van Heerden and Evan Roos both put in some big shifts on defence but unfortunately it wasn’t enough on the night.

Benetton were first to cross the line when they stretched the Stormers defence, and impressive inside centre Marco Zanon eventually went over to get them on the board after the first quarter had just ended.

The Stormers hit back seven minutes later, with a bit of fortune going their way as a cross kick became a massive contest in the air between Courtnal Skosan and Paolo Odogwu, with the ball spilling backwards into the in-goal area and Warrick Gelant pouncing to score.

Tomas Alboronoz added a penalty to keep Benetton ahead but the Stormers looked set to take the lead just before the break when Scarra Ntubeni rumbled over at the back of a lineout drive to level the scores.

Du Plessis missed the conversion but Benetton took the lead seconds later as an audacious drop goal by Rhyno Smith from 45 metres out snapped between the goalposts and put them into the sheds with a smile on their faces.

The second half became a stop-start affair, disjointed by penalties and mistakes, but at one point it looked as if the Stormers were starting to take control, changing their game plan to one more focused on attack.

It paid almost immediate dividends as they had Benetton on the back foot and then spread it wide to Skosan, who eagerly took the chance to score a try for his new side.

But suddenly the tide shifted and Benetton grew in stature. They camped in the Stormers half of the field and racked up a number of penalties in their favour.

Eventually something had to give and it wasn’t a surprise when replacement Alessandro Izekor was on the overlap to complete a simple attack and put his side into the lead again.

Both sides went hammer and tongs in the last minute, but it seemed more and more destined to be a win for the home side.

And when they added a second night of Italian misery for South African URC franchises, the celebrations in Treviso began in earnest

Benetton Treviso - tries: Marco Zanon, Alessandro Izekor. Conversion: Tomas Alboronoz, Jacob Umaga. Penalty: Alboronoz. Drop Goal: Rhyno Smith.

DHL Stormers - tries: Warrick Gelant, Scarra Ntubeni, Courtnal Skosan. Conversion: Jean-Luc du Plesiss