The Capetonians, who started the match in brilliant fashion when Rikus Pretorius scored their first try in the first minute, would have left the Stadio Comunale di Monigo wondering where things went down the tubes for them.
The lead changed hands on numerous occasions in Treviso before teenager Tommaso Menoncello provided the crucial score with 10 minutes left to give former Azzurri Test centurion Marco Bortolami – who took over the Benetton coaching position after Kieran Crowley was promoted to Italy’s national team – a first victory in charge.
Looking at the match stats, the Italians dominated possession (69%) and had a massive territorial advantage (74%) and had the DHL Stormers under pressure, especially in the latter stages of the second half, while the South African team also committed too many silly errors, which handed the ball back to their opponents.
Benetton, winners of the Rainbow Cup earlier this year when they beat the Vodacom Bulls in the final, outscored the DHL Stormers by three tries to two, with Ruhan Nel bagging the Capetonians’ other five-pointer early in the second half.
Manie Libbok’s 44th minute conversion – to go with two first half penalty goals – would be the last time the DHL Stormers troubled the scorers, and leading by 18-7 at that stage, they looked to be in control.
But Benetton – with three South Africans in their starting team in Carl Wegner, Dewaldt Duvenage and Andries Coetzee – fought back and scored two tries, a conversion and a penalty goal between minutes 58 and 70 to take the lead, which they never relinquished again despite the DHL Stormers trying hard to clinch the win.
Benetton 22 (7) – Tries: Gianmarco Lucchesi, Ivan Nemer, Tommaso Menoncello. Conversions: Tomas Albornoz (2). Penalty goal: Albornoz.
DHL Stormers 18 (8) – Tries: Rikus Pretorius, Ruhan Nel. Conversion: Manie Libbok. Penalty goals: Libbok (2).