GLASGOW didn’t have it all their own way in Parma yesterday, but did enough to claim a bonus-point victory over Zebre, taking them back up to second place in the RaboDirect.
Scorers: Try: Van Schalkwyk, Tebaldi. Con: Halangahu 2. Pens: Halangahu 2. Glasgow: Tries: McGuigan 2, Dunbar, Eddie, Murchie. Cons: Wight 2, Russell 2 Pens: White.
Byron McGuigan scored a brace of tries, while Alex Dunbar, James Eddie and Peter Murchie also crossed as the Warriors notched up their fourth-straight league win.
Dries van Schalkwyk and Tito Tebaldi, meanwhile, scored a try apiece for a Zebre side still without a win of any sort this season.
The Italians, however, will probably feel a little hard done by after this one. After a bizarre opening where both sides scored points at a rate of one-a-minute for the first quarter of an hour, it seemed as though Zebre were warming nicely to the challenge, and were good value for their 20-17 half-time lead.
However, the second half belonged to Glasgow, who outscored their hosts 19-0 to keep alive their play-off ambitions.
“We’re delighted,” said coach Gregor Townsend. “We saw all the teams below us winning last night, and we dropped down to sixth. Now we’re back up to second, but we’ll have to play a lot better if we are to stay there.”
Certainly, they’ll have to do better than during the opening stages yesterday, when they gifted Zebre a host of soft points.
They conceded the first try after four minutes when a long, speculative pass by scrum-half Niko Matawalu was intercepted by Schalkwyk, who ran half the length of the pitch to score.
To be fair, Glasgow’s response was impressive. Having won the restart they launched an attack wide on the left and McGuigan did superbly to beat three players on his way to the line.
White added the conversion but Glasgow themselves then conceded straight from the restart after the same player’s clearance kick was charged down by Tebaldi, who reclaimed possession to score.
Once again, however, Zebre’s lead was short-lived, as Glasgow scored from their next attack, Dunbar this time evading some weak tackling to stroll over.
White added the conversion, and then a penalty, to make the score 17-14 in Glasgow’s favour after just 13 minutes. Thereafter the scoring rate eased off, leaving everyone to reflect on what had been a whirlwind opening.
“I’ve seen a lot of rugby but and a lot of bizarre starts, but that was definitely out of the ordinary,” added Townsend. “It sometimes happens like that on Sunday afternoon after a weekend of watching the Six Nations.
“We suffered an interception and a charge-down. It certainly wasn’t what we were expecting, but I was really pleased that the guys stuck to their tasks. We defended much better after that.”
In truth, it wasn’t until the second half that Glasgow steadied the ship. John Barclay and Rory Lamont were both playing for the first time this year after injury lay-offs and they weren’t the only ones blowing hard throughout the opening forty Zebre, aided by the Warrior’s poor line speed in defence, controlled the rest of the first half, and were unlucky not register more than two converted penalties by Daniel Halangahu.
The second half, while not as quite eventful as the first, certainly wasn’t without incident.
Glasgow inside centre Graeme Morrison was sin-binned three minutes after the restart and was joined soon after by Zebre flanker Filippo Ferrarini.
That was a huge psychological blow to the home team, who failed to score again.
The game, by then, was a great deal more structured than it had been in the first half, which seemed to suit Glasgow.
And, after a period of sustained pressure, they got their reward, scoring two quickfire tries to effectively end the game as a contest.
For the first, McGuigan was again the beneficiary, capitalising on a superb pass by Roger Wilson to score in the corner.
Matawalu then made amend for his earlier gaffe with a cutting break to set up Eddie for the bonus-point try.
Finn Russell’s touch-line conversion pushed the score out to 29-22, and Murchie added the frosting late on with the fifth.
Zebre: T Tebaldi; A Baccetti, R Quartaroli (A Chiesa 65) , M Pratichetti, A Castagnoli; D Halangahu, A Chillon (A Benettin 32); M Aguero (S Perugini 55), A Manici (C Festuccia 49), D Ryan (L Redolfini 49); M Van Vuren, M Bortolami (E Caffini 62); F Cristiano (F Ferrarini 41), M Bergamasco (capt), D Van Schalkwyk.
Glasgow: P Murchie; R Lamont (S Kennedy 56), A Dunbar, G Morrison, B McGuigan; S Wright (F Russell 55), N Matawalu; G Reid (Ofa Fainga’anuku 70), G Price (F Brown 56), J Welsh; T Ryder, T Swinson (N Campbell 65); J Strauss, J Barclay (J Eddie 54), R Wilson (capt).