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Pro14: Cardiff Blues 34-24 Benetton

Cardiff Blues signs Bristol Bears wing Ryan Edwards on 3 February to easy injury issues
Pro14: Cardiff Blues v Benetton
Cardiff Blues (7) 34
Tries: Harries, Smith, Edwards, Davies, Jones Cons: Tovey 3 Pen: Tovey
Benetton (19) 24
Tries: Keatley, Herbst, Halafihi 2 Cons: Keatley 2

Cardiff Blues produced a remarkable fight-back from 12 points down at half-time to defeat Benetton 34-24.

Garyn Smith, Ryan Edwards, Seb Davies and Lewis Jones all crossed in the second half after Jason Harries’s first-half try.

Jason Tovey kicked nine points for the home side, who only led for the last ten minutes.

Benetton earned a point through tries from Ian Keatley, Irne Herbst, and Toa Halafihi with two.

The result keeps Cardiff Blues fifth in Conference B, a point behind Connacht, after Benetton had looked set to overtake them.

The home side tried to make the most of an anti-social Sunday evening kick-off time by staging a Clubs Day, with all their players sporting the socks of their first clubs.

But the sparse crowd was given little to cheer before the break as Benetton eased to a 19-7 lead, despite providing 11 players to their national squad.

Elusive wing Monty Ioane set up Ireland fly-half Keatley for an easy run-in after 10 minutes, South African lock Herbst went over from short range and Kiwi number eight Halafihi crashed through some weak tackling for their third try, captain Keatley converting two and hitting the post with two other kicks.

Despite the promptings of Lloyd Williams and Hallam Amos, the only first-half home score was a corner try for wing Harries converted by Tovey, while prop Rhys Gill was forced off with a head injury.

Cardiff Blues came out firing as centre Smith forced his way over after charges by Liam Belcher and Josh Turnbull, and with Keatley sin-binned, wing Edwards scored on his first Pro14 start from a Tovey cross-kick.

The home fly-half converted to level the scores after 52 minutes but missed a penalty, and the Treviso side scored in a rare attack as the rampaging Halafihi charged through some powder-puff tackling from 25 metres out.

It was only a temporary glitch in the Cardiff Blues comeback as lanky lock Davies used all his six foot six frame to stretch and score after a Ben Thomas break, Tovey converting to put them ahead for the first time with ten minutes and adding a penalty.

Replacement Lewis Jones scrambled a fifth try in the 79th minute to add a flattering gloss to the score-line.

Cardiff Blues have a short turn-around as they travel to Edinburgh on Friday, while Benetton’s scheduled home game against Ulster on Saturday could be affected if restrictions on sporting events in the Veneto region because of the coronavirus are still in place.

Man of the match Josh Turnbull told BBC Sport Wales:

“We made it difficult at times for ourselves in the first half kicking in the wrong areas. We corrected that, put in more contestable kicks, and got possession back.

“We knew we could put more pressure on them once we scored that first try in the second half and when you’ve got a back three like Hallam, Ryan and Jason, I thought they were outstanding while the half-backs controlled things better as well.

“We were able to come away with a good win in the end, though we actually made it quite hard work for ourselves.”

Coach John Mulvihill added:

“The performance was massive compared to last week (losing 29-0 in Connacht), the boys really wanted it and you’ve definitely got to win your home games against teams in the same conference.

“We get Connacht here in a few weeks, we get Scarlets on Judgement Day (at the Principality Stadium), if we win those two it’ll put us in a position to make the finals (knock-out stages).”

Cardiff Blues: Amos; Harries, Smith, Thomas, Edwards; Tovey, Williams; Gill, Belcher, Andrews, Ratti, Davies, Lewis-Hughes, Robinson, Turnbull.

Replacements: Dacey, Thyer, Arhip, Thornton, Boyde, Jones, Llewellyn, Fish.

Benetton: Sperandio; Esposito, Brex, Zanon, Ioane; Keatley (capt), Trussardi; Quaglio, Baravalle, Pasquali, Herbst, Snyman, Lamaro, Ruzza, Halafihi.

Replacements: Faiva, Traore, Ferrari, Fuser, Manu, Petrozzi, McKinley, Benvenuti.

Match officials

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)

Assistants: Mike English (WRU) and Rob O’Sullivan (IRFU)

TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)

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