Heineken Cup Pool 5: Benetton Treviso 3-35 Ulster

By Richard PetrieBBC Sport NI
Dan Tuohy and Roberto Barbieri
Dan Tuohy and Roberto Barbieri

Ulster secured a crucial bonus point with a four-try victory over Benetton Treviso which strengthens their place at the top of Heineken Cup Pool Five.

The result makes it four wins from four games for Ulster in the competition.

A Luke Marshall try helped his side to an 11-3 interval lead and tries from Craig Gilroy, Robbie Diack and Jared Payne followed in the second half.

Paddy Jackson kicked three penalties and three conversions, with Alberto Di Bernardo Treviso's only points-scorer.

With the Stadio Monigo shrouded in a thick fog, the match was only given the go-ahead 10 minutes before kick-off by referee Greg Garner.

Ulster were looking to win their first four Heineken Cup pool matches for the first time in their history as they faced a Treviso side coached for the final time by Franco Smith after six years at the helm.

An unchanged Ulster side exerted early pressure in the testing conditions and were rewarded in the 11th minute when Jackson knocked a penalty between the posts.

Looking to make amends for last week's 48-0 thumping at Ravenhill, the hosts put in some big hits on the Ulster ball-carriers and did not allow their opponents the same dominance in the set-piece.

Treviso v Ulster action
John Afoa and Rob Herring make ground for Ulster

Indeed the Italians began to gain the upper hand, and when Ulster were penalised for not releasing in the tackle, Di Bernardo levelled the scores with his first penalty on 29 minutes.

Jackson pushed a penalty attempt wide two minutes later, but Marshall soon managed to get on the end of a Payne kick before touching down in the corner to the satisfaction of the Television Match Offical.

Ireland fly-half Jackson was off target with the conversion but made amends with a penalty either side of the break to put Ulster firmly in control at 14-3.

Ruan Pienaar's kick at the posts soon after went wide and, although Ulster managed some significant line breaks, they were not executing them as clinically as they did in Belfast last week.

After 58 minutes, Treviso full-back Brendan Williams was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on while Ulster were fashioning a try-scoring opportunity and Mark Anscombe's side took advantage of their numerical advantage as Gilroy crossed on 62 minutes after an impressive passing move involving Jackson and Payne.

Jackson added the extras and, as the Irish province looked set to breach the home defence again, Luke McLean became the second Treviso player to be sin-binned.

Flanker Diack barged over for his side's third try on 68 minutes with the help of his fellow forwards, and Jackson again contributed the additional two points.

Treviso responded by putting pressure on the Ulster line but their efforts failed to yield any points and Ulster clinched the four-try bonus point when wing Andrew Trimble showed some nifty footwork to collect the ball after an offload did not go to hand before feeding Payne to dive over in the corner.

Jackson converted from a tight angle in the deteriorating conditions and Ulster go into the final two rounds of fixtures in January as pool leaders.

Team line-ups

Benetton Treviso: Brendan Williams; Ludovico Nitoglia, Michele Campagnaro, Alberto Sgarbi, Luke McLean; Alberto Di Bernardo, Edoardo Gori; Michele Rizzo, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Lorenzo Cittadini, Antonio Pavanello (c), Cornelius van Zyl, Alessandro Zanni, Manoa Vosawai, Robert Barbieri.

Replacements: Giovanni Maistri for Cittadini (63), Alberto de Marchi for Rizzo (59), Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet for Ghiraldini (63), Valerio Bernabo for Van Zyl (59), Dean Budd for Vosawai (59), Paul Derbyshire for Barbieri (63), Tobias Botes, James Ambrosini for Di Bernardo (59).

Not used: Tobias Botes

Ulster Rugby: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rob Herring, John Afoa, Johann Muller (c), Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Sean Doyle, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Nial Annett for Diack (70), Callum Black for Court (63), Declan Fitzpatrick for Afoa (70), Neil McComb for Herring (70), Mike McComish for Muller (70), Paul Marshall for Pienaar (68).

Not used: Michael Allen, David McIlwaine

Referee: Greg Garner (RFU)

Attendance: 3,200