Glasgow 56 - 24 Zebre: Warriors cruise home after first-half scare
It was obvious from an early two-try burst by the Warriors that they had the winning of the game provided they continued to apply themselves. Failure to do that was the main reason the outcome was in the balance for the first 50 minutes or so, even if Zebre had to be commended for their enthusiasm and refusal to lie down.
Both teams were without a host of internationals, but at least in an impressive opening salvo the home team were certainly not thrown off their stride by the loss of so many key players, and made their intentions clear straight from kick-off by running everything they could.
The approach paid dividends for the first time after just six minutes, with George Horne opening the scoring after a show and go by Nick Grigg had created the chance. George’s brother Pete converted.
A few minutes later and it was two full scores. Grigg was again involved in the build-up, and this time it was Matt Fagerson who finished the move, brushing off a couple of would-be tacklers to dot down.
But if those two scores suggested the whole game was going to become a turkey shoot, the Italians had other ideas. If anything Glasgow were playing too loose, especially deep in their own half, and when one over-adventurous pass gave possession away, Zebre eventually won a penalty deep inside the home 22.
They opted for a scrum, and a short-side move saw stand-off Michelangelo Biondelli held up by Grigg and Pete Horne among others. That meant Zebre got another scrum five, then a free-kick followed, and finally loosehead prop Daniele Rimpeli clearly succeeded in grounding.
Biondelli’s conversion made it 14-7, and the score encouraged Zebre to believe that, as long as the game stayed so unstructured, they could give as good as they were getting. They pinned the Warriors back for a while as they went in search of a second try, but in the end had to be content with a penalty, scored by Biondelli.
With Leone Nakarawa orchestrating some of the attacks and props Aki Seiuli and Oli Kebble enjoying the fray in the open, Glasgow patently had superior power as well as greater inventiveness. But in the closing stages of the first half they failed to impose the structure they needed if they were going to make those qualities pay off again, and far too many mistakes crept into their game. An injury to Biondelli momentarily disrupted Zebre’s flow, as he was replaced by scrum-half Marcello Violi, with Josh Renton moving to 10. But five minutes before the break they grabbed their second try, with full-back Junior Laloifi breaking through the defensive line and giving substitute Violi a slightly forward-looking scoring pass. Violi converted his own try, and from 14-0 down Zebre were 17-14 up.
That, finally, was enough to awaken Glasgow from their slumbers, and barely 60 seconds later they were back in front, as a penalty to touch was mauled, then George Horne finished off after George Turner was stopped short. Pete Horne added the two points to put the home side four points ahead at the break. Playing with a strengthening wind at their backs in the second half, Glasgow laboured initially as they went in search of the bonus-point try. But eventually a magnificent offload from Nakarawa produced the score for fellow-Fijian Mesu Dolokoto, who had come on for his debut just minutes earlier.
The tension eased, the Warriors took no time to extend their lead, with a Pete Horne cross-kick going straight to DTH van der Merwe. Horne again converted, and a match that had looked nervy was in the bag at 35-17.
George Horne was then denied his hat-trick, but only by a penalty try as Laloifi was yellow-carded for high-tackling him into touch a couple of metres out. With time running out Tom Gordon got try No 7 for Glasgow, then Pierre Bruno thought he had claimed the last word for the visitors with his own team’s third, before Dolokoto rounded off the scoring with his second two minutes from time.