Glasgow Warriors cope well without absent stars and return to top spot

Many teams in the Pro14 are bedevilled by inconsistency when their star players are away during the Six Nations. Not Glasgow Warriors. Not this season anyway.

Glasgow Warriors' Matt Fagerson was named man of the match. Picture: SNS/SRU.
Glasgow Warriors' Matt Fagerson was named man of the match. Picture: SNS/SRU.

Saturday’s comfortable win over Zebre in Parma was their fourth win in four games in the league since the start of last month, and their haul of 19 points from a possible 20 has put their fate back into their own hands as they bid to finish top of Conference A and claim a home semi-final in the play-offs. Munster, who were top, are now three points behind Dave Rennie’s side after taking only a losing bonus at Scarlets.

With four rounds of the regular season to go, there is still time for a few more twists and turns, but at least Glasgow are now back in pole position. “We’ve done well through this period, picking up 19 points,” the head coach said after his team’s six-try stroll over Zebre. “Munster losing to Scarlets is a great result from our perspective too and puts us back in control. It’s a nice way to finish off this little block.

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“I think we’ve coped pretty well during that period. We’ve still felt pretty confident despite the guys being away,” the head coach continued. “But we’ve also gone into the games knowing we’ve had to play well to win.”

Although without a host of key players because of Scotland duty or injury, Glasgow were able to field a pack that was far too powerful for Zebre. No 8 Matt Fagerson, below, scored two tries and was named man of the match, Tim Swinson at lock scored one and had another chalked off, and Zander Fagerson put in a solid 55 minutes in the front row. Hooker George Turner was concussed five minutes before half-time and taken straight off, but otherwise the Warriors appeared to have emerged with a clean bill of health.

Zebre actually took the lead with a penalty by Carlo Canna, but the stand-off was not much help to his team after that, being sinbinned at the start of the second half for a deliberate knock-on and then being sent off for a second yellow-card offence after kicking out at D’Arcy Rae on the ground. Matt Fagerson put Glasgow ahead with a pick-up off the back of a scrum, then captain Chris Fusaro got the second by seizing on a loose ball and racing to the line.

Stafford McDowall scored his first try for the team with a powerful burst off good lineout ball, and then Ruaridh Jackson celebrated his 150th appearance by claiming the bonus-point try from a smart chip by Adam Hastings. Matt Fagerson scored from a simple break through the defensive line, and with Hastings converting all five tries, that took the half-time score to 35-3. Zebre, to their credit, stuck to their task, and after Swinson had got Glasgow’s sixth, Tommaso Castello restored a little self-respect with the last try of the game.