Johnny Matthews steals show as Glasgow seal bonus point win over Zebre

Glasgow Warriors returned to winning ways, defeating Zebre Parma 40-12 in their final home game of the regular league season.

Glasgow Warriors' Johnny Matthews celebrates his third try in the win over Zebre at Scotstoun. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Glasgow Warriors' Johnny Matthews celebrates his third try in the win over Zebre at Scotstoun. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

The victory was as convincing as the scoreline suggests and Danny Wilson’s side had the four-try bonus point in the bag after 33 minutes. Hooker Johnny Matthews stole the show with a hat-trick of tries from lineout drives but there were also scores from Oli Kebble, Ryan Wilson and Jamie Dobie. Ross Thompson converted five of the six tries.

Having squandered a big lead against Cardiff in Wales last weekend, Warriors needed a win to maintain hopes of a top four finish in the United Rugby Championship. With three tough away games to come anything less was unthinkable and Glasgow never looked in trouble on a night which began with an emotional tribute to Federico Aramburú, their former player and Pumas international who was shot dead outside a bar in Paris last month.

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Argentina flags flew at each end of the ground and Rob Harley laid an Argentine jersey on the pitch as the stadium rose for a minute’s applause in memory of the former winger.

It didn’t take Glasgow long to shake off their Cardiff blues and they were two tries to the good inside the opening ten minutes.

The coach had made seven changes, including replacing the whole front row, and it was the new boys at the coalface who produced the early scores.

Stafford McDowall put Glasgow on the front foot with a nicely judged 50-22 off his left boot which took the Warriors deep into Zebre territory. They won a penalty and kicked to the corner and when Scott Cummings plucked the lineout from the Scotstoun sky it was the cue for his fellow forwards to shove Matthews over for the game’s opening try.

The second score arrived seven minutes later, and it was prop Kebble who finished things off, taking Dobie’s pass then producing a sidestep which flummoxed the visitors’ defence.

Dobie had to go off for a head injury assessment after being on the receiving end of a mighty hit from Asaeli Tuivuaka but the scrum-half returned to the fray ten minutes later.

His brief absence meant a cameo for Sean Kennedy and the replacement scrum-half had a hand in the third try, plucking the ball from a mess of bodies and playing in Wilson who seemed to slip as he went over. The stumble fooled the Zebre defenders and Wilson was able to stretch his left hand over for the try.

It was one-way traffic and the bonus point was secured when Dobie, having passed his HIA, darted over from a scrum.

Thompson had his eye in, converting four from four in the first half and Warriors seemed to be cruising towards the interval. They were 28-0 ahead when Zebre did something no-one was expecting - they scored a try. It was a fine one, too, scrum-half Alessandro Fusco intercepting Dobie’s pass then sprinting more than half the length of the pitch to make the home players’ half-time team talk a little more uncomfortable than it needed to be.

Whatever was said, it had an affect and Glasgow quickly extended their lead with Matthews’ second try. Thompson proved he was fallible but striking the post with the conversion attempt and then things briefly exploded into acrimony.

A seatbelt tackle on Cole Forbes by Potu Junior Leavasa earned the Zebre flanker a yellow card and prompted a coming together of players. Order was restored but Zebre were fortunate not to lose another player ten minutes later when replacement Luca Andreani was horribly late with a tackle on Thompson.

The home team were unfazed and Matthews nailed his hat-trick try with 17 minutes remaining, once again putting the finishing touches to a lineout drive.

Luca Andreani notched a late consolation try for Zebre which was converted by fellow sub Antonio Rizzi.

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