It's all over at the RDS Arena and it was a fantastically balanced contest ⚖️— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 6, 2019
Both @leinsterrugby and @BenettonRugby refused to take a backward step and it went right to the wire 🤜💥🤛
A deserved draw 👊#GUINNESSPRO14 #LEIvBEN pic.twitter.com/Knfod4g8J4
The Italian side have shown massive signs of improvement this season and this result only proved that more as they took points away from Dublin for the second year in a row. Following a 17-15 win against the blues last season.
Benetton got off to the perfect start with Luca Bigi touching down after 12 minutes, Tommaso Allan converted, and the visitors were 7-0 up.
Leinster responded well with Noel Reid kicking a penalty three minutes later to make it 7-3. However, within three minutes of that kick Allan slotted home three points of his own to give his side a seven-point lead once more.
Noel Reid went off injured, but replacement Ciaran Frawley took up where he left off, knocking over a penalty to reduce the deficit on 25 minutes.
Another penalty from the boot of Allan just before the 40-minute mark left it at 13-6 to Benetton at half-time.
Half-time at the RDS Arena 🏟— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 6, 2019
🇮🇹 @BenettonRugby have come to play, bringing the fight to @leinsterrugby with some physical phase-play 🏉
Can the Italians continue this good form and work toward the knockout stage? 🤷♂️#GUINNESSPRO14 #LEIvBEN pic.twitter.com/Q2MRaElq29
Leinster needed a big response and drew first blood in the second-half as James Lowe barrelled his way over the line after some great work from captain Luke McGrath and man of the match Max Deegan.
Frawley sent the extras between the posts and it was all level.
Tremendous work-rate and typically abrasive at the breakdown from @MaxDeegan 💪 who churned through a shed load of work for @leinsterrugby 👊— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 6, 2019
Here he receives his man of the match medal from Martina Flood#GUINNESSPRO14 #LEIvBEN pic.twitter.com/U9qbK39RtB
The Italian outfit were out in front again on 53 minutes when Federico Ruzza scored from close range and Allan was perfect from the tee once more to leave it at 20-13.
Roll on 10 minutes and the men in blue were level as Bryan Byrne found the whitewash and Frawley converted.
Leinster took the lead for the first time in the 70th minute through Frawley, after he was put through a gap by a lovely Conor O’Brien pass. Frawley converted his own try to push the home side 27-20 ahead.
However, Benetton had the final say as winger Iliesa Ratuva punished a couple of missed tackles to run in for a try with the clock in red. Allan held his nerve to convert and it finished all square at 27-27.
After the game Leinster head coach Leo Cullen applauded his side’s effort in the second-half as they lost both Reid and Mick Kearney to injury in the opening 40.
“In the second-half I though the effort from our guys was really good. I thought you could see how much it meant to them and it was a big chance for a lot of guys,” he said.
The result means Leinster have failed to win their last two Pro14 matches but they have managed to give a lot of younger players a chance to play since claiming first place in Conference B. The draw leaves Benetton only two points off second-placed Ulster in the conference and in with a real shout of reaching the play-offs for the first time.
Rory Best to retire.
Best will bow out with a hugely impressive list of honours and will go down as a legend of the modern game, having spent 15 seasons at the top level.
Rory began his rugby development at Banbridge RFC, with whom he is still involved, while he also played at Portadown College and Belfast Harlequins RFC on route to the professional game.
He made his competitive debut for Ulster in 2004 and has amassed 219 appearances to date, scoring 23 tries. He was a key member of the squad which won the Celtic League title in 2005/06.
Best is Ulster’s most-capped international with 116 appearances (10 tries) and has helped Ireland win the Six Nations Championship on four occasions, including two Grand Slam successes (one as captain).
Best’s leadership of Ireland is record-breaking; he captained Ireland to its first ever win against New Zealand in 2016 and has steered the country to second in the world rankings.
He was a member of the British & Irish Lions squad for the 2013 and 2017 tours to Australia and New Zealand respectively.
Best was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to rugby.
“It is with mixed feelings that I announce my retirement from Ulster Rugby as of the end of this season,” said Best.
“This feels like the right time for me to go out on my terms, a luxury for which I feel very privileged.
“I am very excited for the end of the season with Ulster Rugby and for the upcoming World Cup with Ireland, both of which I hope to finish with a massive high, playing at the top of my game.
“In my 15 years at this brilliant club, I have been lucky to have met, played alongside, been coached by and supported by many great people, and I would like to thank every individual for the time they have invested in me since 2004.
“I grew up supporting Ulster Rugby, have been fortunate to play and captain Ulster Rugby, and now look forward to supporting Ulster Rugby in the future with my family.”
Paying tribute to Best, Ulster’s Operations Director, Bryn Cunningham said:
“No player representing Ulster Rugby has had a more profound impact in the professional era than Rory.
“When Rory enters the room, everyone waits for his words. On the training pitch, he demands high standards at all times. During a match, players turn to Rory for leadership and direction. He has been our all-encompassing talismanic figure for more than a decade.
“Rory’s ability to not only stay at the top, but also fight his way through adversity, shows the strength of character he possesses.
“The ever-present support of the Best family on the side-lines, in particular Jodie, Ben, Penny and Richie, encapsulates Rory as the ultimate family man. We know that they will continue to follow Ulster Rugby for many years to come.
“Rory will justifiably go down as one of the greatest legends of Ulster and Irish Rugby.”
Ulster Rugby issue injury update for Moore & Stockdale.
Their update reads:
Marty Moore suffered a season-ending ankle ligament injury in the fixture. He will see a specialist later this week.
Jacob Stockdale sustained a hamstring injury in the same game. His recovery will be monitored on an ongoing basis.”
Sean Reidy: Q&A
URL: What gave you your passion for rugby?
SR: It’s a way of life growing up in New Zealand all my family and friend play rugby so I jumped on the bandwagon as well. Ever since I was young I knew I wanted to play for Counties Manukau – my province.
It wasn’t till I was a bit older I realised you could do it as a job!
URL: What is the story of how you came to Ulster Rugby?
SR: I got the opportunity to a preseason trial around 5 years ago. Off the back of that I got offered a 1 year contract and I’ve been here ever since!
URL: Describe what it was like to play for Ireland.
SR: It was pretty emotional! My family has strong ties here in Ireland and the opportunity to represent those people is a real privilege.
URL: Jacob Stockdale famously plays with Lego before big games. What is the most important part of your routine on match day?
SR: Getting enough sleep in and just trying to relax as much as possible. I feel if I over-think the game too much it can be pretty draining.
URL: What are the most important qualities of a back-row player?
SR: You have to be hard-working, selfless and having a good understanding of the game.
URL: How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?
SR: Failure is a given with every sport. The key is to learn as much as you can from those failures, move on and improve.
URL: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?
SR: My wife constantly tells me to enjoy the little things in life to and not get to caught up worrying about he big picture.
URL: What goals/ambitions do you have for yourself and Ulster in the next few seasons?
SR: Just trying to help Ulster be as successful as possible. We have come along way over the past few years it’s important we keep driving forward.
URL: What was the highlight and lowlight of your career?
SR: Highlight would have to be the chance to work doing something you love everyday.
Lowlights has to be good friends you have moving on from the club you’re at.
URL: What was your favourite sports team growing up?
SR: Counties Manukau or the Chiefs.
URL: What would be the one rule in rugby you’d change?
SR: The one rule I’d change in rugby would be to introduce the 40-20 rule similar to league. I think this would give teams opportunity to attack more with the ball.
URL: Who are your best friends in the Ulster squad?
SR: I’m pretty tight with everyone!
URL: What would you be doing if you weren’t playing rugby for Ulster.
SR: Enjoying the sun in New Zealand.Embed from Getty Images
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