Glasgow Warriors 19
CREDIT where credit is due. Benetton were very good. But this was a disastrous performance by Warriors.
Three tries for the visitors in the last 13 minutes – including two in the last five minutes after Benetton had gone into warm-down mode – gave the scoreline a respectability that did not properly reflect the overall balance of play. Warriors lacked composure and were a distant second best in every department.
There was a smattering youngsters in this side, but it would be disingenuous to use that as an excuse. They were no more or less culpable than the many highly experience men they lined up alongside. This was a failure of the collective rather than any individual.
“I’m a bit shell-shocked, probably like most people,” conceded head coach Danny Wilson afterwards. “I didn’t see that performance coming. I thought we had a decent week training and came into the game in a reasonable place, and we had picked enough experienced players to go with the younger players, so it’s an embarrassing performance, as simple as that.
“Its’ the worst performance since I’ve been here, no doubt about that, from any team we have put out.
“It looks to me like we haven’t turned up. We just didn’t fire in any area. We were error-ridden, we defended poorly, attacked poorly … we need to get to the bottom of where that has come from and put it right pretty quickly going into a derby in a couple of weeks.
“The boys spoke in the changing room as honestly as I am speaking to you about it. They’ve not tried to gloss over it, the leaders have spoken and said it is a dark day that can’t happen again. We need to get to the bottom of where that came from and more importantly make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Started badly and went downhill from there
Warriors dominated early possession but then found themselves seven points down with just three minutes played when Marco Zanon blocked Sam Johnson‘s grubber through then gathered the ball himself, before feeding back inside for Monty Ioane to streak home from 70 yards, fending off a despairing tackle from Cole Forbes on the way.
It went from bad to worse for the visitors when Riccardo Favretto offloaded from the deck to Niccolo Cannone. The big second-row still had plenty to do, but wrong-footed George Horne with an outrageous dummy, then swatted the Warriors scrum-half away like a fly as he thundered home for a wonderful try.
Benetton’s scoring rate then slowed down, but they continued to dominate in every area, harassing Warriors with their aggressive defence, attacking with real bite, and kicking with more conviction.
It was only really a matter of time, and when Benetton finally scored again in the 24th minute it was another beauty with a stolen line-out leading to a ruck in the middle of the park, and Cannone sweeping round to gallop home from 20 yards for his second try of the match.
There was a ‘captain’s challenge’ – the first time this law variation trial has been exercised by a Scottish team – because Zander Fagerson felt he had been illegally cleared-out at the ruck, but the video evidence didn’t support that, and the score stood.
Finally, in the 32nd minute, Warriors threatened when George Turner burst from the back of a line-out drive and powered for the line, but home No8 Tao Halafihi ripped the ball – like sweets from a baby – and Paolo Garbisi launched a coruscating counter attack which went from 22 to 22 before Forbes saved the away team’s bacon by getting back to cut out what would have been the scoring pass.
The final 10 minutes of the first half were more promising for Warriors as they forced a series of penalties from Benetton five yards from their own line, but the visitors couldn’t convert that pressure into points, and some more brilliant scavenger play from Halafihi ensured that the home team went in at the break 21 points ahead.
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Warriors had a mountain to climb in the second half and it started well when Horne sniffed out a gap and forced a goal-line drop-out – another law variation being trialled during the Rainbow Cup – with a kick-ahead into Benetton’s in-goal area.
That put Glasgow in a promising field position, but it came to nothing when Fagerson was penalised for hinging at a scrum. Warriors came again, but this time Foto Lokotui lost the ball in contact, and a couple of huge tackles by Juan Ignacio Brex in the middle of the park re-established Benetton’s momentum.
Garbisi slotted a penalty after Fagerson was, perhaps harshly, penalised for entering a ruck from the side.
Warriors thought they had taken a nibble out of Benetton’s commanding lead when Lokotui secured turnover ball and replacement stand-off Ian Keatley‘s delayed pass sent Rufus McLean clear on the right touchline, with Ali Price then acting as link man to sendForbes over.
However, there was a ‘captain’s challenge’ which showed that Johnson’s arm had made contact with Leonardo Sarto‘s head earlier in the passage of play, so the try was chalked off and Benetton were awarded a penalty.
To compound Warriors’ misery, Benetton scored off the ensuing line-out, with Halafihi bursting over for the bonus point try, and Garbisi adding the tricky conversion for good measure.
Benetton were straight back on the attack, with Sarto chasing down Brex’s kick ahead. The former Warriors winger was stopped short but the home team kept the pressure on and flanker Michele Lamaro muscled over a few phases later.
There was finally a moment of relief for Warriors when Sarto lost control of the ball as he dived in for what would have been Benetton’s sixth unanswered try and Keatley had the presence of mind to send his quick goal-line drop-out on a flat angle to unmarked Forbes on the left wing, and the New Zealander had the gas to make it home from 90 metres.
At least they weren’t going to be grannied, but Warriors’ humiliation wasn’t over yet, because with seven minutes still on the clock replacement hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi went over from a close-range line-out.
Benetton spent the final four minutes with 14 men after Garbrisi was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on, and Keatley and Nick Grigg claimed two late tries. Good on the visitors for not capitulating completely, but it was a fairly futile exercise in damage limitation.
Benetton saw the game out with an injury time Edoardo Padovani penalty after a Warriors obstruction.
Benetton: J Hayward; L Sarto, J Brex, M Zanon (E Padovani 68), M Ioane; P Garbisi, D Duvenage (L Petrozzi 60); T Gallo (T Baravalle 62), C Els ( G Lucchesi 62), F Alongi (I Nemer 71), N Cannone (I Herbst 62), F Ruzza (M Zuliani 53), R Favretto, M Lamaro, T Halafihi (A Sgarbi 66).
Glasgow Warriors: C Forbes; R McLean, N Grigg, S Johnson, K Steyn (O Smith 59); R Thompson (I Keatley 50), G Horne (A Price 48); O Kebble (T Lambert 14), G Turner (G Stewart 54), Z Fagerson (D Rae 68), R Gray (L Nakarawa 64), R Harley, F Lokotui (R Darge 64), F Brown, R Wilson.
Benetton: Tries: Ioane, Cannone 2, Halafihi, Lamaro, Lucchesi; Cons: Garbisi 5; Pen: Garbisi, Padovani.
Glasgow Warriors: Try: Forbes, Keatley, Grigg; Con: Keatley 2.
Scoring sequence (Benetton first):5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0; 21-0 (h-t) 24-0; 29-0; 31-0; 36-0; 38-0; 38-5; 38-7; 43-7; 43-12; 43-17; 43-19; 46-19.
Yellow cards –
Benetton: Garbrisi (76mins)