Glasgow Warriors 11
IT’S the hope that kills you, as they say. After the calamitous conclusion to last season, the arrival of a new coach and the advent of a new URC campaign was enough to foster some sort of feeling of optimism about the Warriors. But in the event, they began more or less as they had left off in the spring, with a lacklustre, disjointed display against Benetton.
After a pre-season in which they had planned to play Worcester and Ulster in warm-ups but in the end only played against the Ayrshire Bulls, an element of rustiness was perhaps inevitable in Glasgow’s play. But the lack of punch and panache was not so predictable, and the dearth of those qualities was the most worrying aspect of the evening.
“There is still some of the pre-season sitting in their legs,” head coach Franco Smith said after his competitive debut had ended in a four-tries-to-one defeat in the Stadio Monigo in Treviso. “We did not have the opportunity to get rid of the cobwebs in a friendly. We can simulate against ourselves as much as we want – unfortunately it’s not games played.
“I’m trying not to use this as an excuse. But there’s a reason why warm-up games are played, especially when there is a new coach.
“In the first half of the game they reverted to old habits. It was better in the second half. We can improve a lot now that we have had a game and I know the players.”
Smith’s side did enjoy one all-too-brief purple patch in the second half, when substitute Zander Fagerson barged through the defence for a try and Sebastian Cancelliere almost added the second after a kick and chase. But by that time, Benetton were well on top – and well on the way to the bonus point which they eventually secured with the last play of the game.
Glasgow had been forced into a change a few hours before kick-off when hooker Fraser Brown failed a fitness test because of illness. Johnny Matthews replaced him in the front row, while George Turner was drafted on to the bench. However, that alteration in no way accounted for the lacklustre way in which they went on to play.
Rhyno Smith and George Horne exchanged penalties early on, then with 25 minutes gone a fumble by the Warriors led to Benetton’s first try. Winger Edoardo Padovani finished off on the right after a long pass from Giacomo Da Re, whose conversion attempt hit a post.
Benetton stretched their lead through an unconverted Gianmarco Lucchesi try from a lineout drive, but in time added on, Horne knocked over a second penalty from in front of the posts to give the Warriors a glimmer of hope going into the second half.
A few minutes after the restart, however, Benetton struck again, with Ignacio Mendy getting their third try after a break up the blindside. Smith added the two points this time to take his team’s tally to 20, then was on target with two more penalties to take the lead beyond two full scores.
Glasgow needed to hit back quickly to have any chance of a comeback, and right on the hour mark Fagerson bulldozed his way over to score. Tom Jordan’s conversion attempt was just wide.
Former Edinburgh and Scotland scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne came off the bench for his Benetton debut as the Italian team rang the changes and slowed play down. Warriors winger Cancelliere briefly sped things up with two kicks ahead, but the second carried too far and went over the dead-ball line before he could touch it down.
Mendy made no such mistake in the last minute, booting on a loose ball and touching down unopposed to secure the bonus point for his team. Smith converted to complete a miserable evening for the visitors.
Smith said a couple of weeks after taking over that he wished Scotstoun opened earlier so he could start training sooner. But he insisted last night that none of the players had been overworked.
“Absolutely not. It is impossible to overwork players at the beginning of the season.
“We are at the beginning of the process. I’m not a magician.”
Benetton: R Smith; E Padovani, I Brex, J Riera (I Mendy 57), I Mendy (M Zanon 47); G da Re, D Duvenage (captain, S Hidalgo-Clyne 66); I Nemer (F Zani 61) G Lucchesi (G Nicotera 61), S Ferrari (T Pasquali 61), S Scrafton (N Cannone 64), F Ruzza, G Pettinelli, M Zuliani (M Lamaro 51), L Cannone (T Halafihi 60).
Glasgow Warriors: C Forbes; S Cancelliere, S Tuipulotu, S McDowall, K Steyn (captain); T Jordan (D Weir 74), G Horne (A Price 53); J Bhatti (O Kebble 46), J Matthews (G Turner 46), L Sordoni (Z Fagerson 46), L Bean (S Cummings 46), R Gray, S Manjezi (R Darge 58), M Fagerson (T Gordon 74), J Dempsey.
Referee: F Murphy (Ireland).
Benetton: Tries: Padovani, Lucchesi, Mendy 2; Cons: Smith 2; Pens: Smith 3.
Glasgow: Try: Z Fagerson; Pens: Horne 2.
Scoring sequence (Benetton first): 3-0; 3-3; 8-3; 13-3; 13-6 (h-t) 18-6; 20-6; 23-6; 26-6; 26-11; 33-11.
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