Stuart Hogg’s return to his schoolboy position of stand-off proved a qualified success as Glasgow Warriors ended 2016 with a bonus-point victory in Italy over Benetton Treviso.
They may have left it late – there were only five minutes left when a try from substitute Rory Clegg edged the visitors ahead – but it was a satisfying way to bring the curtain down on 2016 for head coach Gregor Townsend, who has now entered the final straight of his time in charge of the Scotstoun club.
Townsend, who will leave Glasgow at the end of the season to take over as Scotland coach, felt Hogg coped well in tricky circumstances.
The full-back was having his first outing in the No.10 jersey since he played a couple of midweek matches at stand-off for the British and Irish Lions back on the tour of Australia in summer 2013.
His early try helped Warriors restore parity after they fell behind and although he takes the ball deeper than regular Glasgow and Scotland fly-half Finn Russell, Hogg did enough to suggest to Townsend that he could be deployed in the playmaker’s role later in the campaign.
“It is tough when you are playing a different team from the ones you’re normally playing against,” noted Townsend. “They were coming up really hard on him. His goalkicking was very good and he made some good decisions in attack. He will have learned a lot.
“To get so many touches at first receiver and having to manage the game will make him a better player and a better stand-off if we ever have to use him again there during the season. I am really pleased with his goalkicking. Ultimately that proved the difference.”
Glasgow ran in five tries at Stadio Comunale di Monigo but it was Treviso who made the perfect start, with Luca Sperandio crossing in the corner after just a minute, but Hogg’s breakaway try in the 15th minute levelled the scores, before he dusted himself down to convert.
“It was an international winger who was chasing him so he did very well,” Townsend said of Hogg’s try. “At that stage Treviso were playing really well. The first 15 minutes they were strong and they will be a tough team to play against over here no matter who they are up against.”
The visitors’ lead was extended moments later by Tommy Seymour before Adam Ashe grabbed Glasgow’s third try on 28 minutes – both converted by Hogg to open up a 16-point lead.
Treviso, though, hit back with a converted try on 32 minutes through Dean Budd and former Scotland age-group international Tommaso Allan added a late first-half penalty to make it 21-15 at the break.
Allan’s second penalty on 48 minutes reduced the deficit still further but Nick Grigg’s try shortly after, coupled with Hogg’s conversion, gave Glasgow breathing space.
A 61st-minute penalty from Ian McKinley brought Treviso back to within seven points of their visitors and they were level after Budd’s second try was converted with six minutes left.
Replacement Clegg made an immediate impact for Warriors, though, by scoring a minute later. Hogg’s conversion sealed a dramatic victory.