Glasgow Warriors 36
LEWIS STUART @ Scotstoun
THIRTY minutes of Glasgow Warriors showing what they were capable of was enough to claim another bonus point win over the Italian opposition, but head coach Dave Rennie knows it will never work when they play Saracens next week.
He could see the problems in the first 50 minutes and admitted that his team had had to dig themselves out of the hole they had dug themselves into. A better side would have punished them for those lapses so that by the time Glasgow turned on the style, they would have had a huge catching up job to do.
The good thing from his point of view are that the backs did demonstrate that when they settle down and played fast, straightforward rugby they can rip a committed defence apart ,while he also knows that he has plenty of experience and muscle power in reserve after being rested for this game.
“We have a lot of steel to come back in,” Rennie pointed out. “We rested a number of guys who have played a fair bit for us over the last few weeks. We know it is a massive challenge next week but it is great to be back home for our European game and we know we will have a big crowd.
“We dug ourselves out of a bit of a hole with really good composure in that last 30 minutes. It was nice to see a bit of a ruthless streak too. When we were up one man, we turned the screw.
“It was solid effort in the second half but we know we are going to have to be a lot better against the might of Saracens.”
Both sides had been ringing the changes ahead of the game with the Italians picking eight different players from the side that lost at home to the Ospreys last week, while Glasgow switched seven, mainly in the forwards, from the side that beat the Dragons in a less-than-wholly convincing performance.
So many new faces among the visitors may have played some part in the early defensive confusion that allowed Adam Hastings to slip through the midfield, race clear as the defence closed in and put Huw Jones in for the game’s opening try.
That was as good as the first half got for Glasgow as Zebre dominated territorially and confidence seemed to flow into the visitors as they laid siege to the Glasgow line. They had plenty of half breaks but the home defence proved stronger than most of the rest of their play.
Remember how strong the forwards had been last week against the Dragons? Well five changes in the pack from that side seemed to put an end to that with a string of scrum penalties against them and a couple of key line-outs going astray.
Warriors in trouble
The big problem for Glasgow, however, was that they did not seem to be able to hang onto the ball in contract, coughing up possession pretty much every time they started to build anything promising, while also demonstrating too much of a willingness to kick the ball away.
Eventually, the pressure had to tell with Tomasso Boni bringing play to within a few feet of the home line before the forwards set up a series of pick-and-drives with Apisai Tauyavuca, the flanker, eventually the one to go over.
Luck went Glasgow’s way when Marcello Violi, hit the post with the conversion and with both kickers landing penalties before the break, there were only two points in it.
Making the man advantage count
That all changed just after the 50-minute mark when Johan Meyer, the Zebre flanker, was sin-binned for a high tackle and Glasgow took ruthless advantage with George Turner crashing over from a line-out move.
It seemed to settle the Scots who showed they can both produce some superb offloads and hang onto the ball while their set piece started to settle down.
It was great hands and some smart thinking from George Horne at scrum-half that put Greg Peterson, the lock who had just come on, in for the third try; before Ruaridh Jackson and Huw Jones combined to put Horne himself in for the fourth, bonus point, score.
That settled the result with only the margin to be decided in the final stages, and Peter Horne came off the bench to seal the deal late in the game with Glasgow’s fifth score.
“The key is hanging onto the ball, going multiphase and forcing them to defend more, which we did a lot more in the second half,” Rennie added.
“We were not panicking, what we knew was that we needed to be better in those key areas, carry better, clean better, tackle better, hunt better. It is as much about attitude as anything else. We were more direct, we looked after the ball better and played some smart territory. It was simple in that.”
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson (N Matawalu, 69); L Jones , H Jones, A Dunbar (P Horne, 48-59, 66), R Hughes; A Hastings, G Horne; O Kebble (A Allan, 48), G Turner (G Stewart, 65), A Nicol (D Rae, 51), A Davidson (G Peterson, 51), J Gray (C), A Ashe, C Fusaro (M Smith, 65), M Fagerson (T Tameilau, 65).
Zebre: E Padovani (G Venditti, 41); G Di Giulio (M Azzolini, 71), G Bisegni, T Boni, P Balekana; F Brummer, M Violi (R Raffaele, 61); C Ah-Nau (D Rimpelli, 61), O Fabiani (M Ceciliani, 63), E Bello, L Krumov, G Biagi (C), A Tauyavuca, J Meyer, J Tuivaiti (S Ortis, 73).
Referee: Q Immelman (South Africa)
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: H Jones, Turner, Peterson, G Horne, P Horne; Cons: Hastings 4; Pen: Hastings.
Zebre: Try: Tauyavuca; Pen: Violi.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 10-5; 10-8 (h-t)1 15-8; 17-8; 22-8; 24-8; 29-8; 31-8, 36-8
Yellow cards –