Ulster topple Benetton in thriller to remain in play-off shake-up

John Cooney was excellent once again, but a late try conceded gave Ulster’s Italian rivals two losing bonus points.

Ulster's Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring a try against Benneton during Friday's  URC match at Kingspan Stadium.
Picture by Brian Little
Ulster's Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring a try against Benneton during Friday's URC match at Kingspan Stadium. Picture by Brian Little
United Rugby Championship
Ulster 38-34 Benetton Rugby

Ulster made it consecutive home wins in the United Rugby Championship with a thrilling defeat of Benetton at Kingspan Stadium.

The hosts won 38-34, with tries from Tom Stewart, Reuben Crothers, Jacob Stockdale, Will Addison and Cormac Izuchukwu.

The Italians opened the scoring with a well-crafted try in the sixth minute. Michele Lamaro made a big carry and fed winger Rhyno Smith, who quickly offloaded for Tommaso Menoncello to squeeze over in the corner for an unconverted try.

Ulster responded 11 minutes later with their first sortie into the visitors’ 22, scrum-half John Cooney made a line break drawing the defence before putting hooker Stewart clear to go under the posts.

Cooney added the conversion, but Benetton regained the lead in the 24th minute when full-back Jacob Umaga landed a penalty from in front of the posts.

Ulster  Jacob Stockdale runs in for a try against  Benneton     during FridayÕs  URC match at Kingspan Stadium.
Picture by Brian Littl
Ulster's Jacob Stockdale breaks the tackle of a Benetton defender. Picture by Brian Little

Umaga missed the chance to increase Benetton’s lead when he was off target with a long range penalty.

The lead changed hands again in the 33rd minute as Ulster got a second try. Cooney again was the architect and although he was stopped short of the line, Crothers picked up from the base of the ruck and barged over from close range.

Winger Stockdale got Ulster’s third try in the final minute of the first half as he won the race to gather Stuart McCloskey’s chip and dot down, Cooney’s conversion gave the hosts a 21-8 lead at the interval.

Umaga got the visitors second try six minutes after the restart, profiting from a mistake in the Ulster defence, although he could not convert his own score.

Ulster got their bonus point try in the 50th minutes as centre Addison went over in the corner after the ball was moved quickly across the pitch. Cooney converted.

Benetton got their third try in the 56th minute when replacement Toa Halafihi went over, with Tomas Albornoz converting.

Replacement prop Ivan Nemer ripped the ball off Harry Sheridan on his own try line to claim Benetton’s bonus point, Albornoz converting.

Izuchukwu responded immediately for Ulster, the replacement lock barging over from close range, with Cooney converting.

The Ulster scrum-half added a 73rd-minute penalty before Benetton secured a second match point with a late try from Albornoz, which he converted.