The crescendo to an ill-disciplined performance was the concession of three soft penalties during the final 90 seconds, which saw Danny Wilson’s side go from controlling possession inside Benetton’s 22 to watching helplessly as the home team’s teenage stand-off Leonardo Marin slotted the winning points in injury time.
It is the second time this season that the Italian youngster has broken Scottish hearts in this manner after he kicked a late drop-goal to defeat Edinburgh at the same venue back in early October.
“Due to terrible discipline we spent the whole of the second half inside our own 22,” reflected head coach Wilson afterwards. “The effort is there – it is excellent – there was lot of doggedness to hold on and not cave in on our own try-line.
“But the number of penalties we gave away to put ourselves in a position to lose that game is not good enough.
“With a minute and a half to go, we manage to go from their try-line and give away a penalty for a contact area infringement, a penalty for a high tackle and a penalty for throwing ourselves across the line-out.
“They are just ridiculous penalties which have handed them the game, if I am being honest with you.
“We have to learn our lessons because our discipline today has massively let us down, and from a position to win the game we end up losing the game, so we probably deserved what we got.”
Warriors got off to a shocking start when they allowed Rhyno Smith to rise unchallenged to collect George Horne’s box-kick clearance, and then failed to lay a glove on the Benetton full-back as he waltzed home for the opening try with just 35 seconds played.
To their credit, the visitors bounced right back and claimed a try through No8 Jack Dempsey six minutes later, and they then took the lead through a Ross Thompson penalty.
The match swung back towards the hosts when flanker Giovanni Pettinelli rumbled over for his team’s second try, before Warriors regained the lead just before the break when a powerful line-out drive set up a try for Rory Darge try which was converted by Thompson.
When home captain Michele Lamaro was yellow-carded early in the second half for playing the ball on the ground, and Thompson kicked the penalty to make it a five-point game, it looked like Warriors were poised to push-on for a valuable away win – but despite having an extra man for the next 10 minutes, the visitors couldn’t find a way to control possession or territory, and that set the tone for the remainder of the match.
Marin kicked three more points to get themselves within striking distance with 17 minutes left to play, but when the young playmaker missed another penalty opportunity with 10 minutes to go it looked like Warriors would hold on for victory.
It wasn’t to be, however, with that late collapse prompting Wilson to warn his players that there will be repercussions for their indiscipline.
“When we look back, we will look at the individuals who gave the penalties away,” he said. “There are two types of penalty – there are dumb ones and ones when you take a gamble that doesn’t pay off.
“It is the dumb penalties we need to stop giving away – and the individuals at fault need to learn the lesson because we speak about discipline too often.”