Benetton Rugby 20
Glasgow Warriors 17
THERE is creative chaos, and then there is just chaos. At their best, Glasgow Warriors epitomise the former virtue, but when their self-control falters they are picked off too easily by less gifted sides, which is exactly what happened this afternoon at Treviso’s Stadio Monigo.
Never mind the fact that Dave Rennie’s side were without some of their best players. They had more than enough chances to win this game, and would at least have come away with a draw had a late penalty from Brandon Thomson gone over. But while centre Sam Johnson was outstanding on his return from injury, too many of his team-mates were off form. Johnson made the first try and laid on the second for George Horne, while Adam Hastings converted both and added a penalty. But the latter score was Glasgow’s only one of the second half, which they began two points up, and in the end battling Benetton deserved the narrow win – their fourth on the trot in the PRO14.
The result is no help to Edinburgh, who are vying with the Italians for a play-off place in Conference B, while it also means that the Warriors could lose the leadership in Conference A. “In the last couple of weeks we’ve just made silly errors,” head coach Rennie said. “We did a lot of good stuff in the second half, and we built pressure, but it was generally undone by a bit of handling or maybe a poor decision.
“To Benetton’s credit, they worked really hard. There were a couple of times where they looked like they were gone.
“The big issue for us today was we lost a lot of collisions. We’ve been defending very well, but three tries came from them getting underneath us.
“Then [in attack] we sometimes had slow ball which allowed them to get bodies in front of us. It has to be a hell of a lot better next week.”
Two early errors from Hastings – an intercepted pass and a kick straight to touch – were unwelcome reminders of what had gone wrong against Edinburgh, as was a defensive guddle that allowed the home team to kick to touch within 10 metres of the Warriors line. The defence redeemed itself at the lineout, with Ryan Wilson adeptly disrupting the maul, but from a Glasgow scrum Hastings threw a wild pass that led to Benetton’s first try. The first chance to score from open play was spurned, but possession was retained, and after a few phases of short drives from the pack, Dean Budd powered his way over the line, with Tommaso Allan converting.
With only quarter of an hour played at that point there was no need to rush things, and at first Glasgow’s response looked too frantic by half. But a strong half-break from Stafford McDowall took play deep into the Benetton half, and an offence by Nicola Quaglio yielded a penalty which the Scots opted to scrum. Wilson was held up over the line at the first attempt, but a second scrum saw Johnson celebrate his return to the starting line-up after injury by cutting back against the grain and scoring off first phase.
Hastings’ conversion made it seven points apiece, but after toiling for nearly 10 minutes to get back on terms, the Warriors soon went behind again. McDowall coughed up possession out of a tackle, and after Tommaso Benvenuti was stopped just short, Budd grabbed his second try – unconverted this time – from a driving lineout.
Glasgow had the upper hand for the rest of the half, and although they fluffed one chance when a goalable penalty was kicked to touch only for the lineout to malfunction, they eventually took the lead for the first time just 15 seconds from the break. Johnson’s direct running again did the damage, and Horne was up in support to touch down between the posts and give Hastings the easiest of conversions.
The success of the centre’s midfield breaks was further evidence of what Glasgow needed to do to take control of the contest: keep it tight, direct and controlled. As the second half began it was anyone’s game, but the Warriors surely knew that as long as they employed the correct tactics they could tip it in their favour.
In fact, both teams resumed in more disciplined fashion, but it was Benetton who eventually made their patience pay by retaking the lead through Braam Steyn at the end of a sustained attack. Allan again pulled the conversion attempt wide.
A mistimed pass to Wilson ended one promising attack as Glasgow tried to hit back, and eventually the pressure paid off when Hastings kicked a simple penalty. That made it all square with more than quarter of an hour to play, but after another error by the stand-off, his opposite number Allan nudged the home team back in front with a penalty from right in front of the posts.
There was a consolation for the visitors about that score, as it came right after winger Angelo Esposito had dropped what would have been a scoring pass as referee Joy Neville was playing advantage. It still left them needing to find a way to score again, of course, but one chance went begging when, after they had once more kicked a penalty to touch rather than going for the posts, Alex Allan was held up over the line.
Glasgow still had the scrum, though, from which they won scrummed a penalty. They scrummed again, and should have scored, but Hastings’ floated pass to Matawalu on the left wing went well forward.
With two minutes to go they got another chance with the award of a penalty 30 metres out. This time they rightly chose to go for goal, but substitute Thomson drove his kick wide. Ian McKinley sent his restart long, Adam Ashe knocked on, and Wilson handled from an offside position – just the last in a lengthy series of mishaps that contributed to the defeat. With the clock in red, McKinley was short with the penalty, but the Warriors’ bid to run the ball from their own line was thwarted.
Benetton: J Hayward; A Esposito, T Benvenuti (M Zanon 59), L Morisi, M Ioane; T Allan (I McKinley 72), D Duvenage (T Tebaldi 72); N Quaglio (C Traore 56), H Faiva (T Baravalle 56), S Ferrari (T Pasquali 56), I Herbst (F Ruzza 77), D Budd, S Negri, G Pettinelli (M Lazzaroni 59), A Steyn.
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; R Nairn (L Jones 55), S McDowall, S Johnson, N Matawalu; A Hastings (B Thomson 76), G Horne; J Bhatti (A Allan 54), G Stewart (K Bryce 76), S Halanukonuka (D Rae 40), T Swinson (R Harley 55), S Cummings, R Wilson, C Fusaro (M Smith 62), A Ashe.
Referee: J Neville (Ireland)
Benetton: Tries: Budd 2, Steyn. Con: Allan. Pen: Allan.
Glasgow: Tries: Johnson, Horne. Cons: Hastings 2. Pen: Hastings.
Scoring sequence (Benetton first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-7; 12-7; 12-12; 12-14 (h-t) 17-14; 17-17; 20-17.