GLASGOW Warriors are back on top of Conference A of the PRO14 thanks to a ruthless opening half against Zebre that saw them wrap up the five match points with almost embarrassing ease. They are now three points clear of Munster, who had started the day a point ahead but lost narrowly at Scarlets.
Five of the Warriors’ six tries came in that first half, and the only mildly disappointing aspect of the performance overall was the manner in which they lost their way after the break. One specific concern was the head knock that ended George Turner’s involvement in the first half, but Zander Fagerson played for 55 minutes as he continues his return to full match fitness after five months out with a broken leg.
“It was concussion,” Dave Rennie said of the hooker’s injury. “He took an elbow to the back or top of his head. He was ruled out immediately and didn’t do an HIA.”
Fagerson looked lively enough, and only came off once the game was well won. “He’s fine,” Dave Rennie said of the tighthead prop. “His lungs are probably hurting a bit, but it was good to get a good amount of time out of him.”
While pleased with the way his team applied themselves to get the job done in double quick time, the head coach was disappointed by the lack of correct application in the second half, which was tied 7-7 despite Zebre stand-off Carlo Canna first being sinbinned and then dismissed for a second yellow-card offence. “We were really happy with the way we went in the first half,” Rennie continued. “We were clinical, we created pressure through our defence, and were rewarded for that.
“The game was gone by half-time, but we were really disappointed with the second half. We were just too loose and lacked discipline at key times. We turned over a lot of ball, mainly because what we did really well in the first half, we didn’t do that as well.
“I just felt we thought the job was done and we would be able to run over the top of them. You’ve got to keep working hard for each other. We got five points and that was important for us. It was Jacko’s 150th game, so it’s a nice way to celebrate that, but there’s still more in us.”
‘Jacko’ – full-back Ruaridh Jackson – scored the fourth try and might have got another at the death. Matt Fagerson did get two, while Chris Fusaro, Stafford McDowall and Tim Swinson got the others. Adam Hastings converted all six
Zebre actually took the lead through a Canna penalty after the Warriors had offended in the lineout, but that was as good as it got for the Parmigiani. Although a Swinson score was disallowed as there was no clear evidence of grounding, the first try of the game was only delayed by a minute. With advantage having been played, Glasgow opted to scrum, and No 8 Fagerson picked up and powered over after the pack had driven to within a couple of metres of the line.
The Scots’ superiority in the scrum was an ominous sign for Zebre, but they made a decent fist of fighting back for a while, only to have their good work undone when Glasgow captain Fusaro seized on a loose ball and hared up the left to score.
The third seven-pointer was not long delayed. Clean lineout ball inside the Zebre 22 was tipped back to McDowall, and the centre took a good line to force his way over for his first try for the team. The fourth came when Hastings chipped ahead to Jackson. The ball bounced awkwardly for the full-back, but he gathered it calmly to make his landmark appearance all the more memorable.
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Fagerson got his second all too easily by breaking clean through the line, but after that, shellshocked though they were by having their shortcomings so ruthlessly exposed, Zebre kept plugging away in attack for the rest of the half, only to get little change out of an attentive defence.
Second half and a yellow
If the Italians thought their task could not get any more difficult in the second half, they were soon proven wrong when Canna was yellow-carded within a minute of the restart for a deliberate knock-on. Glasgow had been well on top physically when it was 15 against 15, and with a man advantage their superiority was all the more evident, as, after being denied in the first half, Swinson made no mistake from a mauled lineout to claim converted try No 6.
To their credit, Zebre lifted their game after that and got their first try through captain Tommaso Castello after good work by scrum-half Josh Renton. They still had the energy left to keep on attacking, but with quarter of an hour left Canna was sent off for kicking out from the ground at D’Arcy Rae after being late-tackled by the replacement prop.
The 14 men were still determined to get the score that would see them get the better of the second half, but they were denied it when Brummer put a foot in touch on his way to the line after he had seized on a loose pass. Jackson should have got his second and the Warriors’ seventh try with seconds to go, but Zebre winger Jamie Elliott got back to first haul him down and then hold him up as he rolled over the line.
Zebre: F Brummer; G di Giulio, G Bisegni, T Castello (T Boni 53), J Elliott; C Canna, J Renton (G Palazzani 55); D Rimpelli (D Fischetti 54), O Fabiani (M Ceciliani 54), R Tenga (M Nocera 75), S Ortis (I Bianchi 52), D Sisi, J Brown, J Tuivaiti (A Tauyavuca 53), R Giammarioli.
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; R Nairn, K Steyn, S McDowall, R Hughes (P Kelly 63); A Hastings (B Thomson 63), N Frisby (N Matawalu 55); O Kebble (A Allan 49), G Turner (G Stewart 35), Z Fagerson (D Rae 55), T Swinson, S Cummings, R Harley (B Flockhart 54), C Fusaro (captain, A Ashe 49), M Fagerson.
Scorers: Zebre: Try: Castello. Con: Brummer. Pen: Canna.
Glasgow: Tries: M Fagerson 2, Fusaro, McDowall, Jackson, Swinson. Cons: Hastings 6.
Scoring sequence (Zebre first): 3-0, 3-5, 3-7, 3-12, 3-14, 3-19, 3-21, 3-26, 3-28, 3-33, 3-35 half-time, 3-40, 3-42, 8-42, 10-42.
Yellow card: Zebre: Canna 41-51.
Red card: Zebre: Canna 65.
Referee: A Brace (Ireland).