Bonus for Leinster as Lowe hits debut high
Benetton 10 Leinster 36
Two debut tries from James Lowe and a try-scoring return for Garry Ringrose left Leo Cullen a happy man ahead of next weekend's critical Champions Cup date with Exeter.
Leinster left Treviso with the bonus-point win that sees them return to second place in Conference B ahead of Ulster, but a red-hot debut for Lowe will surely see him thrust into an immediate European debut next Sunday at Sandy Park.
Further tries from the impressive Jordi Murphy and captain Luke McGrath gave Leinster victory, but it was only in the final quarter that the triumph was secured after the home side got back in contention when Ignacio Brex breached the Leinster defence after 57 minutes.
Despite leading 17-3 at the break, Leinster will feel they could have been a lot further ahead, but after Tomaso Allan kicked Benetton into a 3-0 lead, Lowe took over and began to shine.
With the Leinster pack creeping toward the try-line, captain McGrath broke off the back, and slipped Lowe in down the blindside, and the New Zealander's power saw him stretch and score after 17 minutes.
Fresh from last weekend's kicking masterclass, Ross Byrne was on target with the touchline conversion, which gave Leinster a 7-3 lead after 17 minutes, while he stretched his side's lead with a 26th-minute penalty - Lowe drifted well from his left wing and was in the thick of the move - and Leinster led by seven points.
But this was far from a one-man show, as the Leinster pack - and Jordi Murphy in particular - looked determined to force their way into next Sunday's trip to Sandy Park. Murphy was denied a likely try after half and hour when he collided with referee David Wilkinson, but when Leinster moved the ball off the top of another attacking lineout, Murphy was on Luke McGrath's shoulder and he sailed through a slight gap to score try number two. Byrne converted to give his side a 14-point half-time lead.
Treviso made five changes in the first ten minutes after the restart and the fresh legs of Federico Ruzza and Edoardo Gori brought a real bite to their play, and after 52 minutes only a knock-on by Roberto Barbieri short of the try-line denied the Benetton No 8 a deserved score.
Benetton kept the pressure on Leinster though and after they mauled well in the corner, a sharp line from Ignacio Brex saw the centre score under the posts, and Allan's conversion meant just seven points separated the sides.
But four minutes later a break by Lowe up the left touchline eventually resulted in a try for Ringrose in the opposite corner, which allowed Leinster to relax once more.
Brex was sin-binned shortly afterwards for a no-arms tackle, and in his absence Leinster wrapped up the bonus point when Lowe broke clear down the left, drew the cover and sent Luke McGrath in for try number four, before the new winger scored again in the corner.
Scorers - Benetton: I Brex try; T Allan pen, con. Leinster: J Lowe (2), J Murphy, G Ringrose, L McGrath tries; R Byrne 4 cons, pen
Benetton: M Banks; T Benvenuti, I Brex, A Sgarbi (capt) (L Morisi 72), L Sperandio; T Allan, G Bronzini (E Gori 46); C Traore (N Quaglio h-t), T Baravelle (H Faiva 46), T Pasquali (A De Marchi 66); A Zanni (M Lazzaroni 62), I Herbst (F Ruzza 46); W Douglas, N Manu (S Negri 49), R Barbieri.
Leinster: J Larmour; D Kearney (F McFadden 61), G Ringrose, N Reid, J Lowe (R O'Loughlin 75); R Byrne; L McGrath (capt) (N McCarthy 65); J McGrath (E Byrne 58), J Tracy (S Cronin 58), A Porter (V Abdaladze 70); I Nagle (M Kearney 58), S Fardy; Jordi Murphy, J van der Flier (M Deegan 70), J Conan.
Referee: D Wilkinson (IRFU)