IT WAS only a few weeks ago that Glasgow put 54 pints past the same opposition in Italy so there was little doubt about the eventual winner last night with only the bonus point to cause any serious concern... and even that came after just thirty-six minutes.
This win puts Glasgow back on top of the Guinness Pro 12, at least until the Ospreys host Munster this afternoon.
The visitors were worse than ordinary and drag the entire league down with them. The surprise was not that they had lost sixteen matches this season but that Zebre had somehow managed to win three. Their defence in particular was almost non-existent and the rain that pelted down on Scotstoun from the second quarter onwards probably prevented Glasgow from scoring more tries than any defiance or defence from within the Zebre ranks.
At times it was like watching a video replay of last Saturday’s international against Italy complete with a modest fightback...only this game had a happier ending. Glasgow played the first half with their foot flat to the floor, running penalties and taking quick throws at the sidelines. In contrast Zebre kicked to the corner at every opportunity and the tactic almost paid off with Glasgow only marginally better at stopping the driving maul than Scotland were last weekend.
The match was less than four minutes old when Glasgow opened the scoring courtesy of DTH van der Merwe who finished off what Niko Matawalu’s little half break had started. The former scored two tries and the latter created the same number and won the man of the match award. Glasgow will lose both in the summer so if they want to win this league they had better get on and do so.
If things started badly for the Italians, they went downhill pretty fast thereafter. On his return to action after surgery on his ankle flanker Chris Fusaro singled out Alberto Chillon for special attention, tackling the Zebre scrummy at every breakdown and holding on longer than strictly necessary. Suitably wound up Chillon aimed a kick at Rob Harley at a ruck close to the Scottish line and then did the same thing to Kevin Bryce in the middle of the park. The referee flashed a card at the Italian, the first of three yellows that Zebre earned throughout the match, Glasgow managed two. Both sides were briefly reduced to thirteen men in what was an eventful match but not a particularly physical one.
Two attacking lineouts later and Fusaro was the man who came up with Glasgow’s second try just going to prove that if you want justice you’ll have to wait until the next world because there is none in this.
Horne kicked those two conversions and then left the field with a bang to the head not to return, his place at flyhalf taken by Canadian Connor Braid who proved an able deputy. Reduced to thirteen men, centre Matteo Pratichetti and skipper Mauro Bergamasco the two culprits on this occasion, Zebre conceded one more try before the break, van der Merwe grabbing his second in the left hand corner after Matawalu had an earlier effort wiped off by the TMO.
With the bonus point in the bag Gregor Townsend made a raft of changes at and just after half time, including the entire front row, which only knocked the home team off their stride. The Warriors’ focus, intensity and concentration wavered and almost inevitably they took their foot off the gas and free-wheeled their way through the second half, failing to score a single point after the break.
Instead the first chance of the second half fell to Zebre centre Mirco Bergamasco who lined up a simple penalty in front of the posts and pushed it ten metres wide of the posts. The second chance fell to Zebre winger Dion Berryman who was first to fullback Gulio Toniolatti’s clever grubber kick in behind the Glasgow defence to open Zebre’s account with a well taken try just before the one hour mark.
Glen Bryce set some sort of record for the fastest card ever earned. The fullback replaced Peter Murchie on 62 minutes and was shown a yellow card on 63 having scarcely been on the pitch for sixty seconds.
Glasgow spent most of the final quarter of the match in defence of what they already had rather than going in search of more points. There was still time for Will Bordill to earn a yellow card for a sucker punch at a scrum and Sean Lamont injured his knee badly enough to need the help of the gurney to get off the field which suggests he won’t be appearing at Twickenham next Saturday.
The match didn’t so much finish after the regulation eighty minutes, as peter out due to a lack of interest.
Glasgow: Try: van der Merwe (2), Fusaro, K Bryce. Conv: Horne (2), Braid
Zebre: Try: Berryman
Glasgow: Murchie (G Bryce 62), Jones, Lamont, Braid, van der Merwe; Horne (Vernon 20), Matawalu (Price 73); Grant (Allan 40), K Bryce (Hall 47), De Klerk (Fagerson 40), Eddie, Kellock (Spinks 46), Harley, Fusaro (Bordill 55), Strauss.
Zebre: Toniolatti, Berryman, Mirco Bergamasco (Garcia 63), Odiete; Padovani, Chillon (Leonard 40), De Marchi (Lovotti 49), Fabiani (Leibson 68), Romano (Redolfini 40), Geldenhuys, Mahu (Gerosa 55), Riccoli, Mauro Bergamasco, Bernabo.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS