Dave Kearney scores hat-trick of tries in Leinster's opening Pro14 win at Benetton
Benetton 27 Leinster 32
Dave Kearney scored a hat-trick of tries as Leinster got the defence of their PRO14 title off to a winning start in Italy.
Kearney scored each side of half-time, and after Luca Sperandio touched down and gave Benetton the lead with 20 minutes to go, the Ireland winger rescued Leinster with his third 14 minutes from time.
Benetton, who played the last 31 minutes with 14 players when Ratuva Tavuyara saw red for taking Kearney out in the air, had cancelled out Adam Byrne early try with two of their own.
Ian Keatley was excellent for Benetton on debut, but he was unable to seal the win for his side and his penalty ten minutes from time missed the target and Harry Byrne wrapped up the win after his introduction.
Ross Byrne kicked Leinster ahead early on, and after 15 minutes Adam Byrne crossed on the right for a 10-0 lead.
With Keatley on form, Benetton slowly grew into the game and tries from Derrick Appiah and Tomas Baravalle gave them a 14-10 lead. But just before the break Dave Kearney gathered his own chip over the top and was driven over the line and Ross Byrne made it 17-14 at the interval.
Three minutes after the restart Keatley levelled matters with his first successful penalty, but after Tavuyara’s red, Kearney crossed for his second in the 51 minute.
A Keatley penalty cut the deficit before Luca Sperandio scored a great try following a loose Leinster kick to out Benetton 27-22 ahead, but Kearney levelled and Ross Byrne’s conversion gave Leinster the win.
International Rugby Newsletter
Scorers – Benetton: D Appiah, T Baravalle, L Sperandio tries; I Keatley 3 cons, 2 pens. Leinster: A Byrne, D Kearney 3 tries; R Byrne pen, 3 cons; H Byrne pen.
Leinster: J O’Brien; A Byrne (H Keenan 65), R O’Loughlin, J Tomane, D Kearney; R Byrne (H Byrne 69), J Gibson-Park (H O’Sullivan 61); P Dooley, R Kelleher (J Tracy 53), M Bent (V Abdaladze 53); R Molony (c) (J Murphy 61), D Toner, M Deegan, W Connors, C Doris.
Benetton: A Esposito, R Tavuyara, J Riera, A Sgarbi (C), M Ioane, I Keatley, L Petrozzi (C Trussardi 76); D Appiah (C Traore 58), T Baravalle (E Makelara 68), M Mancini Parri (F Alongi 68); I Herbst (N Cannone 68), E Snyman (I McKinley 76); M Lazzaroni, M Barbini (L Sperandio 49), T Halafihi (G Pettinelli 64).
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU).