Glasgow Warriors winning five points away from home with 13 men is something worth celebrating
Midway through this Pro14 match in Parma, a difficult season for Glasgow was on the verge of getting a whole lot worse. Down 17-10 at the break, and with Sam Johnson already in the sinbin, they lost Ollie Smith to a yellow card as well – the second time in a week they had played part of a match with 13 men.
But, while Zebre did stretch their lead to 20-10 with a penalty at that point, that was as good as it got for the home team as the Warriors took a grip on the game, going on to win 31-20. The character shown by the whole side was important, but the catalyst for their recovery was the arrival off the bench of Nick Grigg, who laid on one try and scored another as Glasgow ended up with a bonus-point win.
“It’s five points away from home in a season where we haven’t had many of those,” Warriors coach Danny Wilson said. “First half we left three tries out there where we should be away from them, and maybe a slightly more confident Glasgow Warriors would finish those opportunities off and get away from them by half-time. But that wasn’t the case, and all of a sudden our discipline let us down a little but.
“We were playing with 13 men yet again, but we hung on in there and we won the second half 21-3. So really what we set out as a game plan worked: we managed to wear them down enough to put them away when they were a bit more fatigued at the end of the game.”
Believing in that game plan was the crucial thing for Glasgow, especially after a first half in which almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The catalogue of mishaps began in the opening minutes when Gregor Brown, making his first start, had to be taken off following a clash of heads with Michelangelo Biondelli, who left the field on a stretcher.
Paolo Pescetto and Ross Thompson then exchanged penalties, before the Glasgow man put his side ahead with the first try of the game, adding the conversion too.
Rufus McLean twice came close to building on that lead either side of Potu Leavasa’s yellow card, but when Johnson followed his opponent into the bin for a dangerous tackle, Zebre hit back. Two tries from Mattia Bellini, both converted by Pescetto, put them seven points up at the break.
Things looked bleak when Smith was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on a few minutes into the second half, but after that Pescetto penalty, on came Grigg to help turn the tide. First the substitute centre laid on a try for scrum-half Jamie Dobie, with his fellow-substitute Ian Keatley, inset, converting on his debut.
Then, with Enrico Lucchin in the bin, a tap penalty produced a try for Tom Gordon, Keatley again adding the extras. Grigg himself got the bonus-point try five minutes from time, and Keatley’s conversion rounded off a satisfying afternoon for Wilson’s side.