Glasgow Warriors 38
HEROIC defence and six well taken tries meant Warriors will return home from a potentially treacherous trip to Italy with a full haul of valuable league points – despite their scrum being screwed into the ground for the first 45 minutes of this match, until 38-year-old Petrus du Plessis trotted out of semi-retirement to shore things up.
With so many frontline players missing (rested), especially in the pack, there was danger written all over this match, but Dave Rennie’s men showed admirable resilience and a cohesive attacking game when they got the chance to secure a comfortable win on the road which lifts them back into the play-off places in Conference A of the PRO14 (at least until the Cheetahs complete their games in hand).
“I thought we started pretty well, then got under pressure near half-time and lost Aki Seiuli to the bin, but we’re really rapt that it was great performance from a lot of young men – and getting five points over here is not an easy thing to do,” said Rennie.
“I thought Petrus was fantastic,” he added. “He obviously added a lot of experience to our scrum and shored that area up along with Oli Kebble, which helped us get our game going again. But he did a lot of graft too, so he had a massive smile in his face afterwards with 30 minutes under his belt.
Glasgow got off to a flyer when Nick Grigg ducked past his man then released Kyle Steyn on the right, who then sent a well-timed pass back inside for Sam Johnson to zip home for the opening try inside three minutes.
Pete Horne added the easy conversion and the visitors continued to dominate proceedings until the major chink in their armoury was exposed for the first time around the eight-minute mark, when their pack crumbled at scrum time. Clearly, the challenge for Rennie’s men in this match was going to be to keep the tempo high and the ball in play, because set-piece was going to be a challenge.
A few minutes later, an attacking Warriors line-out drive went nowhere against the giant home pack, so George Horne had to spread it, and there was instant reward with Steyn coming off his wing to make the initial dent and Pete Horne showing great strength to wriggle past three tacklers on his way to touching down.
Warriors were in complete control, but then some niggle sneaked into the match, and it suited Benetton who struck back when home hooker Hame Faiva muscled over from a close-range line-out for his fifth try in three outings – following a hat-trick in last week’s Italian derby win over Zebre.
It was breathless stuff, with several extended phases of a high-octane continuity play, before Warriors grabbed try number three when Pete Horne danced through midfield and sent brother George in under the sticks.
Glasgow spent the final five minutes of the first half desperately defending their own line, with their scrum being penalised three times before referee Nigel Owens warned the front-row that they were courting a yellow-card. He was wasting his breath because the next engagement went straight down meaning loose-headSeiuli was sent to the naughty step.
That brought Kebble on to bolster the visiting pack, and sure enough the next scrum went the distance, but any consolation Warriors could glean from not having conceded a penalty try was soon cancelled out when Benetton surged over in the middle of the park two phases later, with No 8 Abraham Steyn getting the downward pressure.
We can assume that Rennie’s message at half-time was to get back to the free-flowing pattern which had been so effective during the opening quarter of an hour, but they only lasted three minutes before a messy ruck led to a scrum which immediately turned into a penalty when Kebble was fingered for pulling his opposite number down.
The ball was sent to the corner, the line-out drive was ferocious, and Warriors dodged a bullet when Steyn lost control as he tried to burrow in for his second try. That meant another scrum on Glasgow’s line, and it was time for Rennie to pull his geriatric rabbit out the hat by sending on 38-year-old du Plessis to shore things up at tight-head prop, which he did in some style – standing firm at the first set-piece and then helping to march Benetton backwards into a penalty concession at the next one a few minutes later.
Warriors claimed the bonus point on 56 minutes when Grigg did well to scavenge possession on his own 22 and after several slick phases the excellent Bruce Flockhart burst past former Scotland Under-20s cap Tommaso Allan in the middle of the park, then sent George Horne scampering over the line.
Warriors lost control at the restart, but not for the first time in this match they defended with both aggression and discipline to keep their opponents out.
The early introduction of du Plessis – who is more of a coach these days and was making his first appearance of the season – presented a big challenge for the veteran South African, and to his credit he kept thundering on, aided by a few (perhaps tactical) minor injuries along the way which helped him recover his breath! But he was left exposed when Niccolo Cannone picked up from the base of a ruck and scooted past him, launching the sweeping attack which ended with Antonio Rizzi scoring the home team’s third try, which made the last 15 minutes interesting.
There was a 10 minute hold-up while Grigg was treated on the park following a nasty clash of heads with Cherif Traorè. The centre regained consciousness on the pitch before being taken to hospital, and was later given the all-clear to travel home with the squad on Sunday morning.
The game petered out a bit after that, although Flockhart did have another powerful burst, before Warriors finished the game in style with two late tries. The first after Rizzi was forced to carry the ball back and touch down over his own line as he tried to tidy Nick Frisby’s kick ahead, which created the field position for Niko Matawalu to skip over the line a few phases later, and the second when Andrew Davidson latched onto Ratuva Tavuyara’s wild, behind-the-head offload to gallop home unchallenged.
Benetton: J Hayward; L Sarto (A Rizzi 57), R Tavuyara, L Morisi (A Rizzi 27-39), M Ioane; T Allan, D Duvenage (T Tebaldi 61); N Quaglio (C Traore 51), H Faiva (E Makelara 57), M Riccioni (T Pasquali 66), I Herbst (N Cannone 51), F Ruzza (E Snyman 51), S Negri (M Lazzaroni 66), G Pettinelli, A Steyn.
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson (H Jones 66); K Steyn, N Grigg (S Johnson 68), S Johnson (G Bryce 61), N Matawalu (O Kebble 39); P Horne, G Horne (N Frisby 71); A Seiuli (N Matawalu 51), G Turner (G Stewart 71), A Nicol (P du Plessis 45), R Harley, T Swinson (A Davidson 71), B Flockhart, T Gordon, R Wilson (C Fusaro 71).
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Benetton: Try: Faiva, Steyn, Rizzi; Con: Allan 2.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Johnson, P Horne, G Horne 2, Matawalu, Davidson; Con: P Horne 4.
Scoring sequence (Benetton first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 5-12; 5-17; 5-19; 10-19; 12-19 (h-t) 12-24; 12-26; 17-26; 19-26; 19-31; 19-36; 19-38.
Yellow cards –
Glasgow Warriors: Seiuli