GLASGOW WARRIORS 37
STUART BATHGATE @ Scotstoun
SOMETIMES the unglamorous wins are the most satisfying – in retrospect if not at the time. Glasgow toiled for much of the game to put away dogged and defiant opponents, but deep into stoppage time centre Sam Johnson grabbed the fourth try that made it another bonus-point win.
It was far from the most aesthetically pleasing performance the Warriors have put in, but the fact that they got the bonus point so late was testament to their character and persistence. “We were delighted to get the win at the end,” said man of the match Peter Horne, who had a personal haul of 17 points through a try, three penalties and three conversions. “It was a massive effort from the scrum.
“Although we didn’t play all that well, [and] it wasn’t pretty at times, at the end of the season we could look back and that extra point we got at the end there could be massive. It was a great result and I’m really chuffed.”
The Warriors now have five wins from five games in the PRO14, and are at the head of Conference A. Their next challenge, however, could be their toughest to date, as they head to South Africa to take on the Cheetahs at altitude in Bloemfontein.
Last night’s game did not start off looking like the slugfest into which it developed, as winger Tommy Seymour was quick to make an impact in his first home game of the season, blasting through the middle of the visitors’ defence in a well-executed move which had begun with Rob Harley securing good lineout ball. Horne added the conversion, and the Warriors were up and running. The swirling wind and persistent rain made handling difficult in the first 40, but Glasgow persisted with their high-tempo running game, and went further ahead through a Horne penalty after the Benetton defence had strayed offside.
The Italians have improved significantly this season under coach Kieran Crowley, and have already claimed the scalps of both Edinburgh and the Ospreys, but that was just one example of their inability to deal with the Warriors’ punch and pace. They were more impressive in attack, and got off the mark midway through the first half with a Martin Banks penalty, but soon found themselves further behind when Harley had the power to reach the line after a strong surge by the Warriors’ big men deep into the Benetton 22.
It all looked pretty easy for Glasgow at that point, but another Banks penalty was a gentle reminder that they could not afford to let up – something that Edinburgh had done a few weeks ago after taking an apparently solid 14-0 lead. A Benetton try in the closing minutes of the half would have constituted much more than a gentle reminder, but some sterling defence, with Nick Grigg to the fore, denied them the five points. They did add three, however, with a Banks penalty which was the last kick of the half.
With their lead reduced to eight points, the Warriors needed a statement of intent at the start of the second half, and they provided it with some determined running rugby. If anything, though, they tried too hard to force a breakthrough too quickly, and although the rain had stopped by that time, they were still guilty of the odd spilled ball.
An ill-tempered flare-up inside the Warriors’ half then saw referee Dan Jones show a yellow card to Benetton’s Angelo Esposito, and on his team’s next attack Horne was on target with his third penalty. Rennie made his first three substitutes with half an hour to play, introducing Fraser Brown, Tim Swinson and Ali Price in the hope that fresh legs would help take advantage of the extra man, and it soon paid off. When Benetton conceded another penalty, Glasgow opted for the scrum, and quick ball enabled Horne to sprint through the depleted defence for a try which he converted himself.
That should have been the game done and dusted, but substitute Marco Lazzaroni quickly rekindled the Italians’ hopes of getting something from the game with a try in the left corner after a penalty had been kicked to touch. The conversion would have brought them within a score of a bonus point, but Banks’ kick came crashing back off the upright.
The atmosphere had been muted compared to the previous week against Munster, but the volume rose a notch or two to welcome Niko Matawalu off the bench for his return to Scotstoun. The Fijian, playing on the wing in place of Lee Jones, was soon off on off his bamboozling runs, but Benetton were alive to the threat and managed to snuff the attack out.
With a dozen minutes to play it was an Italian substitute who had a bigger impact, Federico Ruzza getting over between the posts seconds after an apparent swinging punch by an Italian in a ruck went unpunished by the referee. Banks succeeded with the kick this time, and the match was back in the balance.
Brandon Thomson eased the home side’s worries a little with a penalty, but it might have become a shaky end to the game had Banks not missed a long penalty four minutes from time. That error seemed to end Benetton’s hopes and revive Glasgow’s, and in the time that was left – which included a good four minutes after the 80 were up 0 the bonus try was duly secured. A series of penalties in the Benetton 22 were scrummed, and a penalty try must have been close when at last Price opted to tap and run. Johnson was up in close support, and finished off from five metres out, Thomson adding the conversion.
The try put some gloss on a frustrating evening, and it could be argued that,
after mastering Munster so comprehensively on their last outing, Glasgow should have imposed themselves more fully on Benetton. Having said that, it should be noted that the Warriors team last night was a lot different to the one that started against the Irishmen.
Rennie had said before the game that he did not regard his selection as a calculated risk, but nonetheless there are times over the course of a long and draining season when you have to use your fringe players. In that sense, if this was an experiment, it was a successful one, even if it did fall some way short of the standard we have come to expect from the New Zealander’s team this season.
“We would have learned some lessons again tonight, which is good for us,” the head coach said. “It took them scoring a couple of points for us to get going again, but they’re a good side, they showed that defensively. We’re happy to get five points.”
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; T Seymour, N Grigg, S Johnson, L Jones; P Horne, H Pyrgos; A Allan, P MacArthur, D Rae, B Alainu’uese, S Cummings, R Harley, C Fusaro, R Wilson. Substitutes used: F Brown, T Swinson, A Price, M Fagerson, N Matawalu, J Bhatti, B Thomson, A Nicol.
Benetton: J Hayward; A Esposito, T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, L Sperandio; M Banks, T Tebaldi; C Traore, L Bigi, S Ferrari, M Fuser, D Budd, S Negri, A Steyn, M Barbini. Substitutes used: A de Marchi, M Lazzaroni, R Barbieri, G Bronzini, F Zani, T Pasquali F Ruzza, I McKinley.
Scorers: Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Seymour, Harley, Horne, Johnson. Cons: Horne 3, Thomson. Pens: Horne 2, Thomson.
Benetton: Tries: Lazzaroni, Ruzza. Con: Banks. Pens: Banks 3.
Scoring sequence: 5-0, 7-0, 10-0, 10-3, 15-3, 17-3, 17-6, 17-9, half-time, 20-9, 25-9, 27-9, 27-14, 27-19, 27-21, 30-21, 35-21, 37-21.
Yellow card: Benetton: Esposito.
Referee: D Jones (Wales).