It didn’t quite happen but the perennial underdogs gave the home team a hurry up, pulling to within one converted try in the final quarter before Glasgow put this one to bed with ten late points. Glasgow bossed much of the first half, Benetton were much improved after the break, but the Warriors’ bonus point win keeps them top of the conference and extends their winning streak to five at the start of this season.
Benetton brought some spit and vinegar to Scotstoun, throwing themselves into the contact and defending Glasgow’s mauling game as well as anyone and causing trouble in attack. The reliable boot of former Highlander stand-off Marty Banks kept Benetton in this match with three first-half penalties, to which they added two second-half tries. They stayed in the contest, even when down to 14 men in the second half.
Where the home side enjoyed an edge was in the creativity of the back line, especially when allied to the finishing of Tommy Seymour. The Glasgow Lion made his first home start after his summer exertions Down Under and it took him just nine minutes to get back into the Scotstoun swing, claiming the opening try after a set move from an attacking lineout carved open a hole in the visitors’ defence.
The second Glasgow try came on 25 minutes after a methodical build-up in which Brian Alainu’uese and Darcy Rae did much of the heavy lifting before Henry Pyrgos found Rob Harley with a short pop pass to send the flanker over the line.
Rae is growing, in stature and confidence, with every game. He inevitably goes forward with the ball in hand, if not at any great speed and, when the Glasgow scrum went forward, it was usually thanks to him.
Glasgow started the second half with a 17-9 advantage but Peter Horne went a long way to winning this match for Glasgow by scoring the next ten points all by himself in the first 15 minutes of the second 40.
He kicked a simple penalty before Glasgow opted for a set scrum rather than take another easy three and the gamble paid off. Horne was well marked when the ball arrived but the little stand-off stepped the first defender and pirouetted out of the second tackle before making the 15-metre dash to the line.
The Italians’ discipline was vanishing quickly and Angelo Esposito was flashed a yellow card after some pushing and shoving with Glasgow skipper Ryan Wilson, who was a little lucky not to join him in the bin.
Benetton got five points back by exploiting Glasgow’s old Achilles’ heel with a well-worked driving maul, which had no trouble from five yards out but Banks’ conversion bounced back off the post.
The biggest cheer of the evening was for the return of old favourite Niko Matawalu, who rejoined the Warriors after a couple of frustrating years in England. He replaced Lee Jones just shy of the hour and was quickly pressed into service in frantic defence.
Replacement Federico Ruzza ended a Mexican stand-off between Glasgow’s flying defence and Benetton’s aggressive offence, the lock forward untouched as he picked a gap between two black shirts. Banks’ conversion made it a six-point game and Glasgow knew they had a match on their hands.
The finishers saw it out. Brandon Thomson, on for Horne, kicked a 71st minute penalty and Sam Johnson secured the bonus-point try from short range.