Zebre Parma 6
Glasgow Warriors 17
GLASGOW made heavy weather of the good conditions at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, after getting off to the sort of lively start that suggested they were about to run up a substantial score. But, while never entirely comfortable with their lead against Zebre, they got there in the end to make it three wins out of four in the URC.
A leg injury to substitute Fraser Brown late in the game has cast doubt on the hooker’s availability for the autumn internationals, but on the whole the visitors appeared to have emerged more or less unscathed from a scrappy encounter against spirited but limited opponents.
“It doesn’t look great at the moment,” head coach Danny Wilson said of the hooker’s injury. “It’s a knee injury that will need to be scanned. It’s tough for him.”
More generally, Wilson was pleased by the character shown by his team, and by their diligence in defence. He accepted that it was a point dropped against the league’s bottom team, but insisted there were a number of extenuating circumstances.
“We can take four points out of it, that’s important,” he said after first-half tries from Lewis Bean and Sione Tuipulotu had helped his side to the win. “I said before the game ‘Boys, we’re currently a top-four team. Top-four teams come here and do the job’.
“We’ve come here and to an extent we’ve done the job. We’ve got the four points we needed.
“Granted, we wanted five, and we haven’t got them because of not a great performance. But if we can play as poorly as in that second half and still hold on and win in Italy, I’ll take that and we’ll say credit where it’s due in terms of character and we can build on that. But I think we all know we’ve got to be better next week facing Leinster at home.”
They will indeed have to be a lot better at Scotstoun on Friday against the Irish team, but they will have a lot of key players back for that game. British & Irish Lions Ali Price and Zander Fagerson, for example, could be involved for the first time this season. Scotland backs Sam Johnson and Kyle Steyn should also return after being rested yesterday, and Australian international Jack Dempsey should be back after he and Matt Fagerson – who is more of a doubt for Friday – were ruled out of this game at the last minute by illness.
“We’ve had a lot of disruption this week,” the coach continued. “People who were picked couldn’t play for various reasons, we were travelling away to Zebre, a number of players were playing their first game for the club this season – and we’ve come away with four points. So we’ve got to take the positive of that first of all.
“Our second-half performance was poor. But like I said, we’ve come out of here with a win. That’s three wins on the bounce, we’re still fourth in the league, we’ll take that.”
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The promising start got under way when an excellent break from deep by Rufus McLean drew a penalty from the home defence, and after the ball was sent to touch, Duncan Weir just failed to finish off the drive for the line. Zebre had offended again, though, and after a tap penalty from five metres out, Lewis Bean finished off. Weir converted.
The Warriors began to exploit a clear superiority in the lineout, and they should have extended their lead after a dozen minutes following another penalty to touch. This time, however, Bean lost the ball in the act of crossing the line, and Zebre cleared from the scrum.
The trouble for the home team was that the good things they did were all too often undone by elementary mistakes: almost midway through the first half, for example, they ran a penalty and immediately lost possession when going for goal would more than likely have got them off the mark. But at least they learned from that error, and when they got a similar reward a couple of minutes later, Carlo Canna opened their account with the kick.
Glasgow needed to impose some structure on the game and scotch any ideas Zebre had of making it a more chaotic contest – something that would certainly have favoured the home side. But the Warriors were unable to do so in their next attack, and although they won a penalty from it, Weir’s kick from around 35 metres went wide.
Eventually, though, the pressure told. Cole Forbes got a good offload away from a broken midfield, and a slick interchange of passes involving Rory Darge, McLean and Tuipulotu ended with the latter crossing the line. Weir’s kick on goal was good.
Canna was on target, too, with a second penalty a few minutes later. Zebre offended from the restart, but after again going to touch and then driving from the lineout, Glasgow once more failed to finish off, Oli Kebble this time being the man to lose the ball forward as the line loomed.
Warriors were under a lot of pressure early in the second half, and were given a warning for repeated offences by referee Andrew Brace. Some inspired defence kept Zebre at bay, then with half an hour to play the coach made three changes to his pack in a bid to get his team back on the front foot.
It did not take long for Brown, in particular, to make an impact, as the hooker drove a lineout maul before McLean came close to the line with an elusive break. Weir came closer still but grounded short of the line.
Advantage was being played, and Weir kicked to touch. But the ensuing drive was stopped well short this time, as the Zebre defence appeared increasingly confident of coping with an attack that looked bereft of ideas.
Inside the last quarter, Brown was penalised for a high tackle on winger Pierre Bruno, but Canna missed from beyond the 10-metre line. Weir made no such mistake from closer range 15 minutes from time, however, and at last we had a score in the second half.
There was still plenty of fight in Zebre, but there was some fatigue too. Canna kicked away decent possession on several occasions, evidence that he was hoping to benefit from a Glasgow error or a fortuitous bounce rather than trusting in his own attack to build something from hand.
With Johnny Matthews back on for the injured Brown, both teams played out the game with an air of the walking wounded about them. The most important thing for the Warriors was that they ended up on top, but with a home game against Leinster looming on Friday, they know they have a lot to think about.
Zebre Parma: J Laloifi; P Bruno, G Bisegni (capt, E Cronje 64mins), T Boni, A Tuivuaka; C Canna, A Fusco (M Violi 64); D Fischetti (A Lovotti 64), L Bigi (O Fabiani 64), M Nocera (E Bello 41), D Sisi (C Stoian 66), A Zambonin, M Mbandà, R Giammarioli, G Licata (L Andreani 58).
Glasgow Warriors: C Forbes (R Thompson 72); S Cancelliere, N Grigg ( S McDowall 76), S Tuipulotu, R McLean; D Weir, G Horne (S Kennedy 66); J Bhatti (B Thyer 64), J Matthews (F Brown 50), O Kebble (E Pieretto 50), L Bean (R Harley 50), R Gray, R Wilson (capt), R Darge, A Miller (T Gordon 68).
Referee: A Brace (IRFU).
Zebre: Pens: Canna 2.
Glasgow: Tries: Bean, Tuipulotu; Cons: Weir 2; Pen: Weir.
Scoring sequence (Zebre first): 0-5; 0-7; 3-7; 3-12; 3-14; 6-14 (h-t) 6-17.
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