Dave Rennie, the Glasgow Warriors head coach, is a pragmatic soul. He knows this was a far from perfect performance from his side, but they still came away with a bonus point win and a lot of players getting valuable game time as they gear up for the period when they have to cope with both injuries and players off on Scotland duty.
“We have a fair few injured at the moment, so it was good for those guys who have not had a lot of footy coming back from injury to create competition for places, which is what we want. We know we are going to lose a few during the international window so it was important we keep winning,” he said.
“We’ll take that, six tries to three. We dominated that first half and were reasonably clinical. The second half, we just struggled to get our hands on the ball; we dropped off a few tackles and they spent long spells at our end of the field.
“We scrambled pretty well but to get five points here is good, a lot of teams have struggled. They are a good side. A phenomenal amount of offloads, and an enormous number of them stuck as well.”
It had been high-octane stuff from the start with Zebre showing straight from the kick-off that they were there to try to beat Glasgow with the same combination of pace and handling that is supposed to be the Scots’ main weapon.
The first attack was repulsed with a couple of penalties giving Glasgow the chance to go for the corner where a driving maul put Matt Fagerson, the No.8, over the line for the opening try, but the lead did not last long.
Zebre won the ball back in the visitors’ 22 and showed the quality of their handling as the ball crisscrossed the field before Edoardo Padovani, the full-back who has ended his exile in Toulon, made the break and Renato Giammarioli, the No.8, finished.
The big difference in the sides was in their finishing skills. If anything Zebre were making more breaks, finding more space, but they could not match the Glasgow Warriors’ finishing.
Huw Jones, the centre, set up the next try with a chip and chase to force a scrum five. George Horne threatened to go all the way from the set piece but instead fed Lee Jones for the second try.
Then it was back to grunt and grind with another maul, this one earning a penalty try, before Glasgow at last found their handling cohesion on a damp Parma evening to create a move down the right wing that was finished with Horne diving inside the corner flag to score his seventh try of the season.
“George [Horne] has been very good and put a lot of pressure on the established nines,” Rennie noted.
“Nick Grigg again gave us a lot of go-forward, he is a pocket battleship and hard to contain, a real handful. It was good to see guys like him stepping up and Adam Ashe who unfortunately, with Chris Fusaro getting knocked out, got a lot of footy. It was good for him to to get 60 minutes under his belt.”
Zebre hit back straight after the break, winning a position on the visitors’ line and having the patience to keep the ball alive through a series of pick and drives until Maxime Mbanda, the flanker, found space to dive over.
You could not fault Glasgow’s response, though. They found their handling touch as the forwards offloaded to each other on the right before Finn Russell switched play left with a huge pass to Ruaridh Jackson who had a simple job putting Lee Jones in for his second try.
Yet again the Italians showed their defiance with a determined passage of play that ended with Tommaso D’Apice, the hooker, being driven over in the corner, but that was only matched with another demonstration of the Glasgow firepower.
This time it was Russell who supplied the inspiration with his dinky little chip kick catching Zebre flatfooted. Huw Jones got there first to tap the ball down to Nick Grigg for the try that made the game safe.