Munster had laid down the marker and leapfrogged the Italian team into top position on Friday, but the determined Treviso outfit just refused to accept second place as their aggressive defence and abrasive forward effort overcame an error-ridden Connacht a day later.

The two sides in the Treviso game exchanged early tries but it was Benetton who were the more disciplined, both with their defensive effort and all-round, after that.

Two Paolo Garbisi penalty goals ensured Benetton went in at the break 11-7 up and although Connacht challenged and wasted a few scoring opportunities, it was always the Italians who had their noses in front and looked likely winners as Garbisi added three more kicks in the second half to put the host out of range.

The win means Benetton, whose former DHL Stormers scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage is in excellent form with his tactical game, remain the only unbeaten team in either leg of the competition that will be concluded with the grand final against the South African winners on 19 June.

It was announced before the weekend that the final would take place in Treviso, something which may have galvanised Benetton, who would have been rank outsiders when the competition started as they struggled in the Guinness PRO14 and didn’t win a game.

However, playing their last competition under newly-appointed Italy coach Kieran Crowley, they have been a revelation and have their fate in their hands as a win over Ospreys in their final game on 12 June will be enough for them to clinch top spot.

Munster, who are now three log points behind Benetton but in second place ahead of Glasgow Warriors by virtue of points difference, finish off by travelling to Zebre the previous day.

Johann van Graan's team will be expected to beat Zebre while Benetton will face a big challenge in Wales so the competition is still wide open, but Benetton continue to confound the critics and no-one will write off their chances of notching the win they need to make the final.

That Munster are even still in the race is because of a late comeback in an exciting game at their home base of Thomond Park against a Cardiff Blues side that led on the score board, until Keynan Knox rumbled over for the Irish team's winning try six minutes before the end.

To be fair, it looked like Munster were going to win easily when they led 21-10 at halftime, but Cardiff exploited the period that Munster were down to 14 men because of a yellow card to score two converted tries that propelled them into 24-21 lead.

The win was a fitting Thomond Park send-off for the retiring Munster duo of CJ Stander and Tommy O’Donnell, who now have a chance to make it an even more glorious send-off by winning the competition on the road.

They are not the only team chasing Benetton though, with Glasgow Warriors keeping to the theme of an exciting weekend by coming from behind to beat the Dragons at Cardiff City Stadium in the late game on Saturday to keep their challenge very much alive.

Glasgow struggled with the pace that the Dragons played the game initially but were the dominant team later in the game and will go into their remaining fixture against Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster with some momentum.

Speaking of Leinster, the pre-tournament favourites did not play at the weekend and have a game in hand on the other teams but are on nine points from three games, meaning they are also nine off the pace being set by Benetton, and will have to win their remaining games with a bonus point to stand any chance of making the final.

At the same time, they have to hope Benetton come away from their fixture against the Ospreys without anything, not even a bonus point. Leinster’s last game in the league phase of the competition will be against the Dragons.

Meanwhile, Scarlets picked up four log points because their scheduled game against Ulster was cancelled due to a COVID outbreak in the Ulster camp. The match could not be rescheduled so Scarlets take the points. The Welsh team are too far off the pace though for the points they were awarded to be really significant to the title race.

Weekend Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup results:
Munster 31 Cardiff Blues 27
Benetton 20 Connacht 12
Dragons 16 Glasgow Warriors 27