Glasgow Warriors 68 - 7 Zebre: Van der Merwe back with a bang
When Glasgow are in this mood they are tricky to halt but Zebre didn’t even look like they were trying. Glasgow had the bonus bagged before the half-hour mark, they scored six tries to nil in the first half and they eventually ran in ten tries in total.
It was difficult to uncover an aspect of this match where the visitors were competitive never mind had an edge. Glasgow won scrum penalties almost at will, the home side were too slick with the ball in hand and, while Zebre matched Glasgow’s ambition, they fell well short of their penetration in attack.
Adam Hastings, pictured inset, had an assured game having had a hand in a good many of the first-half tries. He claimed eight from nine off the tee and proved his kicking from hand was on song from the off. One early kick fell just behind Zebre full-back Edoardo Padovanni and Lee Jones was able to recover possession. Another exit from his own 22-metre line stopped a few metres shy of the Zebre try line and their own clearance kick was then charged down.
Glasgow’s front row were a different class, Sam Johnson looks back to his best in the midfield and Ruaridh Jackson continues to bask in his very own Indian summer.
The match even had a fairy tale beginning. Returning winger DTH van der Merwe only signed back with the Warriors last week but the Canadian international claimed the first try of the night after just seven minutes and also the fourth try, the latter a set-piece move from an attacking lineout when Zebre’s defence was short-handed.
For his first, Glasgow went to the right-hand corner, twice, and drove both times only to feint the same move for a third time and instead throw the ball wide where Hastings’ long pass enabled the left winger to walk it in.
It was enough to earn the winger the man of the match award which was a popular choice if not a strictly accurate one.
Glasgow brought their game face from the start and just four minutes after the first try they had extended their lead by another seven points. A quickly taken tap penalty saw Johnson make good ground before feeding his stand-off. When Hastings attempted to return the favour the ball instead fell to the supporting Jackson who scored under the posts.
There was a full 11 minutes before Glasgow’s next score. Zebre spilled the ball in midfield, Jones hacked ahead and was nailed down to score it before a hefty shove in the back from Carlo Canna sent him flying. The result was a penalty try and a yellow card for the Zebre stand-off. Van der Merwe then scored his second, and Glasgow’s fourth.
Hastings sent his half-back partner Henry Pyrgos over the line after a beautiful arcing run from the ten and there was still time for a sublime piece of vision from the same man when the fly-half’s clever miss pass found Jackson lurking on the right wing for the full-back to score Glasgow’s sixth and final try of the first 40.
The second half started much as the first had ended, Jones going over the line exactly 1 minute 11 seconds after the re-start... goodness knows what Zebre’s Michael Bradley (former Edinburgh boss) said to his charges at half-time?
Zebre finally exerted enough pressure on Glasgow for Canna to score a try on 50 minutes. Zander Fagerson got that one back two minutes later from point-blank range and the returning Glasgow skipper Callum Gibbins claimed a try from a driving maul just before leaving the field around the hour mark.
He was followed over the Zebre line by Lelia Masaga and DTH might have got his third but for Hastings’ long miss pass drifting marginally forward.