Glasgow Warriors 31
WHEN Dave Rennie looked forward to his team’s remaining two PRO14 games before Europe a couple of weeks ago, he said he had one over-riding objective: “good points”. This win in Parma may have lacked the panache of the previous week’s 50-0 rout of the Southern Kings, but it nonetheless fulfilled the Glasgow head coach’s wishes, providing his team with a maximum haul of five for the second week running.
The Warriors still have a lot of ground to make up in Conference A after this, their third win in six league outings, but they are definitely heading in the right direction. It was the return of some of their World Cup players that inspired them at home against the Kings, and the reintegration continued successfully here as Fraser Brown, Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson and Sam Johnson all returned to the fray.
It was a far from perfect performance against Zebre, who made up in defiance what they lacked in finesse, and a dip in energy for a quarter-hour spell in the second half will be a concern for Rennie as he looks ahead to Sale’s visit to Scotstoun next weekend in the first round of Champions Cup pool games. Loosehead prop Oli Kebble could be another concern after he only played the first half here, although the fact the South African was able to sit and watch the second 40 from the stands suggests his withdrawal may only have been temporary.
But, with those caveats in mind, this was on the whole a reassuringly solid display. When it counted, the Warriors were sharper and smarter than their hosts – none more so than George Horne, who set his side on their way to victory with the first two of their five tries. Ratu Tagive and Adam Hastings also touched down before Nick Frisby got the fifth try in the dying minutes, while Hastings added three conversions.
“It was a bit sloppier than we would have liked it to be, but I think the boys dug in really well,” the stand-off said. “Zebre are a side that stay in the game really well and are really passionate, and I think that tested our mettle when they scored and I think we did well.”
Glasgow made their superiority count straight from kick-off, and although their initial forays failed to produce any real scoring chances, they eventually took the lead with nearly quarter of an hour on the clock when Horne’s quick thinking and quicker feet saw him score from a tap penalty from just a few metres out. The Zebre defence had been caught napping, and as well as going behind, they also lost blindside Giovanni Licata for the offence on the scrum-half that produced the penalty.
Hastings converted, and although at first the home team made a fair fist of taking the game to their opponents, in the end they went further behind while still a man down. Horne was again the scorer, from first phase off a lineout, with Brown’s initial burst being carried on by Tagive, who showed some impressive touches on his first start in 20 months.
The stand-off missed the conversion attempt, and some of his kicking from hand was also erratic if inventive, but towards the end of the half he stretched his team’s lead with a smart finish to some patient and relentless approach work. Excellent handling gave Glasgow an opening close to the right touchline, and then, with Tagive remaining out wide as a decoy, Hastings slipped inside the remaining defenders then crossed with two men on his back. This time the kick was good to make it 19-0 for the visitors at the break.
Zebre’s best chance of getting off the board in the first half had been similar to the one from which Horne had opened the scoring, but it was symptomatic of their error-scarred performance that they lost the ball forward almost immediately.
The aim in the early stages of the second half was to score the fourth try that would both secure a bonus point and finally extinguish any lingering Zebre hopes of a recovery. It came through Tagive when, after a commanding close-quarters drive from the forwards, Hastings put him through for an unconverted score.
To their credit, Zebre kept fighting, but they suffered another setback after 55 minutes when flanker Johan Meyer was sent off for a no-arms clearout at a ruck. Cummings was the victim, with the openside’s shoulder crashing into his head – a clear instance of foul play which referee Ian Davies did not hesitate to punish with a red card.
The Italians responded to going a man down with their best passage of play in the contest, scoring through substitute Pierre Bruno off the back of a maul after a penalty had been dispatched to touch. Carlo Canna converted, and for a time after that full score the Warriors lost their way. They too had been guilty of indiscipline at times, and were punished for it when replacement hooker George Turner was yellow-carded for an off-the-ball tackle.
Even so, it was Glasgow who finished the stronger, and they wrapped up the victory when, after Tommy Seymour had hacked on a loose ball, Frisby gathered a couple of metres out and touched down.
Zebre: M Biondelli; C Walker, J Elliott, E Lucchin, M Bellini; C Canna, J Renton; A Lovotti, L Bigi, A Tarus, M Kearney, I Nagle (captain), G Licata, J Meyer, D Sisi. Subs: M Manfredi, D Fischetti, G Zilocchi, L Krumov, R Giammarioli, M Violi, T Boni, P Bruno.
Glasgow Warriors: T Seymour; R Tagive, K Steyn, S Johnson, D van der Merwe; A Hastings, G Horne; O Kebble, F Brown, Z Fagerson, T Swinson, S Cummings, R Wilson (captain), C Fusaro, M Fagerson. Subs: G Turner, A Allan, D Rae, K McDonald, T Gordon, N Frisby, R Jackson, H Jones.
Referee: I Davies (Wales)
Scorers: Zebre: Try: Bruno. Con: Canna.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Horne 2, Hastings, Tagive, Frisby. Cons: Hastings 2, Jackson.
Scoring sequence (Zebre first): 0-5, 0-7, 0-12, 0-17, 0-19 half-time, 0-24, 5-24, 7-24, 7-29, 7-31.
Red card: Zebre: Meyer.
Yellow cards: Zebre: Licata. Glasgow: Turner.