Glasgow Warriors 40
ANOTHER bonus point win on the road and another step closer to making sure that a top place finish in Conference A of the PRO14 is theirs, but it was far from a polished all-round performance from Glasgow Warriors at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
They were, quite comfortably, the better team, and when they clicked they looked good – but those moments were too few and too far between for head coach Dave Rennie or any of his squad to be fully satisfied with what had taken place. The fact that the Warriors never quite managed to shake off their limited but gutsy opponents suggests that the team is still some way short of reaching the breath-taking standards which characterised some of their early season performances.
It is, of course, very rare for any team to go through a whole season without being jolted by a few bumps in the road, and the last month has been tough for the Warriors. Having enjoyed their swashbuckling side, it is now time to watch them fight their way back into form. With that in mind, six tries on the road to a team which has beaten Connacht and Ulster already this season can hardly be categorised as a bad day at the office.
Warriors took an early lead when teenage number eight Matt Fagerson propelled himself off the back of a line-out drive and over the whitewash, but that score was almost immediately cancelled out when the visitors tried to run the restart back into enemy territory and ended up coughing up possession in midfield through a slack Jonny Gray offload, with Renato Giammarioli capitalising.
The lead was recaptured through a set play from the back of a scrum, with decoy runners creating mayhem to Lee Jones to come in off his wing and dart under the posts after collecting a perfectly timed pass from George Horne.
Glasgow picked up seven more points just before the half hour mark when referee Andrew Brace awarded a penalty try against Zebre for collapsing a driven line-out as it rumbled towards the scoring zone.
Zebre stand-off Carlo Canna had missed a long-range penalty earlier in proceedings after Glasgow tight-head Siua Halanukonuka collapsed a scrum just inside his team’s half, but Marcello Violi took over kicking duties and was dead-on target when Pat MacArthur was pulled up for trying to play the ball on the deck.
Glasgow bounced back to secure the bonus point try just before the break, with Russell switching play back to the right with a long pass to Ruaridh Jackson, and after some neat handling from Adam Ashe [back after ten weeks out with an ankle injury and on the field as an 18th minute replacement for the dazed Chris Fusaro] it was Horne who scurried over in the corner.
Zebre were down, but they were not out; and they hit back within three minutes of the restart when Maxime Mbanda slipped past a lacklustre Gray at the edge of a close-range ruck to go over. That score came after another turnover in midfield when Finn Russell’s bullet pass bounced of Greg Peterson’s shoulder.
Then another dropped ball – this time Huw Jones was the culprit – allowed Zebre to get straight back on the offensive, and Warriors can count themselves slightly fortunate that a promising home attack fizzled out after a number of purposeful phases. Against more potent opposition, this habit of compounding one lapse with another could easily have been much more damaging.
But when they click, the Warriors really are an impressive attacking unit, as was evident when a slick passage of play, in which Horne featured prominently, ended with a lightening switch of play from right to left through great hands from Huw Jones and Jackson, to send Lee Jones in for his second score.
Zebre kept pressing and after the TMO ruled that they hadn’t quite managed to get the ball over the line after a powerful rumble, hooker Tommaso D’Apice eventually got in for the score, which meant they were only one converted score away from two bonus points – for scoring four tries and for finishing with in seven points of Glasgow – with quarter of the game still to go.
But this time Glasgow responded superbly with Russell releasing Huw Jones with a brilliant grubber kick, and Nick Grigg finishing the move off.
The final 20 minutes were particularly scrappy with Zebre dominating possession and territory but lacking the guile to make that count, and there was no more scoring.
Zebre: E Padovani; R Parata, G Bisegni, T Castello (C Gaffney 56), G Venditti; C Canna, M Violi (G Palazzani 66); A Lovotti (A de Marchi 61), T D’Apice (L Luus 61), E Bello (R Tenga 63), D Sisi, G Biagi (V Bernabò 74), M Mbanda (D Minnie 73), J Meyer, R Giammarioli.
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson (B Thomson 63); L Jones, H Jones, N Grigg, N Matawalu; F Russell (P Horne 63), G Horne (H Pyrgos 63); A Allan (O Kebble 58), P MacArthur (J Malcolm 51), S Halanukonuka (D Rae 58), G Peterson (K McDonald 58), J Gray, R Harley, C Fusaro (A Ashe 18), M Fagerson.
Zebre: Try: Giammarioli, Mbanda, D’Apice; Con: Canna; Pen: Violi.
Glasgow Warriors: Try: Fagerson, Jones 2, Penalty Try, Horne, Grigg; Con: Russell 4;
Scoring sequence (Zebre first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 7-12; 7-14; 7-21; 10-21; 10-26 (h-t) 15-26; 15-31; 15-33; 20-33; 20-38; 20-40.
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)