|Connacht: (24) 31|
|Tries: Boyle 3, Sullivan, Wootton Cons: C Fitzgerald 3|
|Benetton: (7) 14|
|Tries: Alongi, Duvenage Cons: Keatley, Duvenage|
Paul Boyle celebrated his first time captaining Connacht with a hat-trick of tries in their 31-14 Pro14 win over Benetton at the Sportsground.
Connacht led 24-7 at half-time thanks to Boyle’s double and scores from Peter Sullivan and Alex Wootton.
Filippo Alongi replied for Benetton, however Tommaso Benevenuti’s yellow card saw his side leak two tries.
Boyle sealed his hat-trick in the 53rd minute as the hosts moved into second place in Conference B.
Benetton scored a late consolation through captain Dewaldt Duvenage.
Connacht scrum-half Caolin Blade was held up before number eight Boyle crashed over from a five-metre scrum for his 13th-minute opener, converted by Conor Fitzgerald.
Backs and forwards then combined in a 23rd-minute lineout drive to propel Sullivan over the line for his first try for the Irish province.
The Italians closed the deficit to five points soon after, Ratuva Tavuyara reacting impressively to a partially blocked kick before Marco Barbini carried forcefully and Alongi duly drove over from a few metres out.
The try, converted by Ian Keatley, stood in spite of a post-score lunge by Benvenuti on a prone Gavin Thornbury. The TMO review highlighted him leading with his shoulder.
The Benetton centre’s yellow card was hugely costly for the visitors, as Connacht went wide to the left and Sullivan’s well-timed pass sent Wootton over on the half-hour mark.
Fly-half Fitzgerald was able to convert Boyle’s second score of the night, close to the interval. A blindside gap appeared from a scrum and the Connacht skipper evaded Callum Braley to establish a 17-point advantage.
Eoghan Masterson was held up but Connacht scored from the resulting scrum when player-of-the-match Boyle, ably supported by two team-mates, powered over from close range to make it 31-7.
A promising Fitzgerald break was the highlight of a final quarter that was scoreless until his opposite number Duvenage went over from a quickly-taken 77th-minute penalty.
Connacht: John Porch; Peter Sullivan, Sammy Arnold, Tom Daly, Alex Wootton; Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Jack Aungier; Eoghan Masterson, Gavin Thornbury; Sean O’Brien, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Paddy McAllister, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Jarrad Butler, Colm Reilly, Sean O’Brien, Matt Healy.
Benetton: Jayden Hayward; Ratuva Tavuyara, Tommaso Benvenuti, Ian Keatley, Tommaso Menoncello; Dewaldt Duvenage (c), Callum Braley; Nicola Quaglio, Tomas Baravalle, Filippo Alongi; Irne Herbst, Federico Ruzza; Giovanni Pettineilli, Marco Barbini, Toa Halafihi.
Replacements: Giacomo Nicotera, Ivan Nemer, Tiziano Pasquali, Riccardo Favretto, Alberto Sgarbi, Manuel Zuliani, Luca Petrozzi, Joaquin Riera.