Dragons return with Italian loss
Dragons suffered a 23-9 defeat in the European Challenge Cup as Benetton took the spoils in a physical encounter at Stadio Comunale di Monigo in Italy.
After a month without action, three penalties from Sam Davies gave Dragons a slender half-time lead.
But the Italians impressed in the second period and two home tries saw them ease to the win in Pool B.
An impressive opening passage of play from the visitors was rewarded with an early penalty from Davies after three minutes.
Benetton, though, were not behind for long and after fly half Rhyno Smith missed a simple looking tenth minute kick the Italians struck.
A five-metre lineout saw home forwards pour towards the line before lock Ira Herbst drove over from close range for a 5-3 lead.
Smith, after missing two kicks, found his range with a penalty just after the midpoint of the half, after the visitors were penalised for not rolling away.
Dragons needed a response and got it as a powerful run and offload from Jamie Roberts fed Taine Basham to burst up field.
Chris Coleman, Ben Carter and Aaron Wainwright all carried strongly before a penalty close to the line gave Davies a simple three points.
A scrum penalty handed Benetton another big attacking opportunity in the final ten minutes of the half as they pinned Dragons back for several minutes and strung phases together.
But a well-drilled Dragons defence held firm and Dyer reacted fast to touch back a testing grubber before Aneurin Owen did brilliantly to win a penalty under the shadow of his own posts to relieve pressure.
Dean Ryan’s men made them pay in the final minute of the half as a quick tap penalty from Gonzalo Bertranou forced Benetton to concede another for not retreating and Davies gave the Dragons a one-point lead at the break.
The second half picked up where the first left off with both teams looking for a breakthrough to wrestle complete control of the European fixture.
Will Rowlands and Davies combined to win an important turnover after Benetton controlled the opening ten minutes of territory in the second half.
A 50:22 by Davies from a free kick forced an opening, but the ball was ripped loose just as Dragons threatened to bulldoze up to the line through the forwards.
Benetton looked to up the pace and scored a second try just before the hour mark when a cross field kick picked out full back Edoardo Padovani to collect and score.
A jet-heeled burst from Dyer and supporting run from Rosser almost fired an immediate reply, but the penalty went against Dragons at the breakdown just as they built pressure.
Smith put Benetton more than a score clear with less than ten minutes remaining as the game started to slip away.
Replacement Ellis Shipp was yellow carded for collapsing a maul and Benetton put the squeeze on at scrum time to run the clock down and work their way deep into the 22.
The home side sealed the win four minutes from time when replacement hooker Tomas Baravalle crashed over as the home pack again flexed its muscles.
03m Davies p 0-3
14m Herbst t 5-3
23m Smith p 8-3
26m Davies p 8-6
40m Davies p 8-9
56m Padovani t Smith c 15-9
71m Smith p 18-9
76m Baravalle t 23-9
Benetton: Edoardo Padovani, Tommaso Benvenuti, Nacho Brex, Luca Morisi, Luca Sperandio, Rhyno Smith, Dewaldt Duvenage; Federico Zani, Corniel Els, Tiziano Pasquali, Ira Herbst, Federico Ruzza, Manuel Zuliani, Michele Lamaro, Toa Halafihi
Replacements: Tomas Baravalle, Ivan Nemer, Nahuel Tetaz, Carl Wegner, Braam Steyn, Luca Roberto, Xavier Petrozzi,
Dragons: Ioan Davies, Jared Rosser, Aneurin Owen, Jamie Roberts, Rio Dyer, Sam Davies, Gonzalo Bertranou; Greg Bateman (Seiuli 61), Taylor Davies (Shipp 72), Chris Coleman (Brown 57), Will Rowlands, Ben Carter (Maksymiw 71), Harrison Keddie, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright (T Davies 74)
Replacements: Ellis Shipp, Aki Seiuli, Leon Brown, Joe Maksymiw, Huw Taylor, Tavis Knoyle, Will Reed, Jordan Olowofela,
Referee: Pierre-Baptiste Nuchy (France)