Glasgow Warriors scraped to their third victory of the season on Friday night with a 22-19 victory over Italian opponents Zebre who made their first trip to Glasgow.
Townsend’s decision to make 13 changes from the victory against Connacht was close to backfiring after the Warriors trailed 13-0 in the opening stages of the game. After the nightmare start to the match, Glasgow took advantage of Zebre’s indiscipline and led at half time from a well worked Graeme Morrison try. The second half was less frenetic than the first 40 minutes with only two penalties being converted. Fortunately for Glasgow, substitute Peter Horne notched one of them, sealing the victory.
Warriors went into the match as overwhelming favourites but their Italian opponents were quick to demonstrate they’d be no pushovers and took the lead courtesy of a fourth minute penalty which was slammed over by Orquera.
Three minutes later Zebre doubled their lead through a quite remarkable long range kick. Captain Gonzalo Garcia thumped the ball over from a distance of more than 50 metres.
Glasgow were rattled by their poor start to the match and they soon conceded a try after 11 minutes. Winger, Leonard Sarto thundered down the wing before passing to Orquera who dashed through a gaping hole in the Glasgow defence.
The Warriors looked to settle the restless Scotstoun crowd but they grew even more agitated when Jackson smacked a fairly simple penalty wide of the posts.
They weren’t frustrated for long though, as Tim Swinson crossed the white line after 21 minutes following a Zebre mistake. A testing kick wasn’t dealt with and Swinson thundered forward to kick the ball towards the line before touching down. Pratichetti gave chase and contested the Glasgow forward forcing the referee to refer to the TMO who correctly awarded the try.
Jackson didn’t let his previous blunder affect him and collected the additional two points.
As the rain began to bucket down, Zebre showed signs of indiscipline and before the half hour mark they had two men sent to the sin bin the shape of Filippo Christiano and Italian star Mauro Bergamasco.
Despite having 13 men on the pitch, they were the next side to get on the score sheet with Orquera making it 16-9 after 31 minutes.
Moments before half time, Warriors had a scrum five metres from the line which was converted into a score following work from DTH Van Der Merwe who scored his fifth try in three games. For the second time of the night, the Warriors try was a close call and Leighton Hodges looked to the TMO for a ruling. It was decided that the score was legitimate and the gap was narrowed to just four points after Jackson missed the conversion.
As the half time break neared ever closer, the Warriors huffed and puffed to gain a half time lead and they managed to do so after a jinking Graeme Morrison run.
Following his earlier try, it was DTH Van Der Merwe’s vision and awareness that released the centre who wrong footed Sarto before sprinting to the line.
Unfortunately Van Der Merwe’s effort meant that the winger had to retire injured in place of Stuart Hogg who made a long awaited appearance; his first of the season and an early return from injury in plenty of time to challenge for International honours in November.
Half time – Glasgow Warriors 19-16 Zebre
Despite a fantastic end to the first period, Zebre started the second period the stronger and drew level following a penalty awarded for crossing.
After conceding, Warriors pressed to go ahead, with Stuart Hogg looking threatening.
Debutant Josh Strauss was also a danger to his Italian opponents and won Glasgow a penalty after 58 minutes, but Ruaridh Jackson failed to convert.
Jackson was a frustrated figure and was subbed in place of Peter Horne whose first task was to slot Warriors into the lead and he made no mistake.
Townsend opted to field a raft of substitutes as the half progressed with Ola Fainga’anuka making his debut along with Moray Low. However, the prop’s appearance was short lived and Low was worryingly removed from the field of play on a stretcher after receiving extensive treatment on the pitch.
After a frantic first half, there was only on kick apiece in the second period but it was enough for Glasgow to seal the victory and boosts them into fourth place in the table.
After the match, head coach Gregor Townsend said: “We got the win which was pleasing but it was our poorest performance of the season. To be trailing 13 points early on in the game was very disappointing. We looked not in the game early on. We were inaccurate, missing tackles and losing ball.
“I was very frustrated and disappointed about the poor start but I knew we would hit back.
“To show the resilience to come back was great. We put a big a big effort in the scrum and deserved the victory in the end.
“We made a few changes in the side and some of the ones who came in did very well but as a team, we were well off our best.”
Try scorer Tim Swinson said: “It was a good team performance. We showed that we have a competitive squad and can do well, regardless of what team is fielded.
“The conditions were very tough but it is something that we need to get used to.”
Glasgow : Thomson, Seymour, McGuigan, Morrison, van der Merwe, Jackson, Kennedy, Reid, Gillies, Cusack, Ryder, Swinson, MacDonald, Fusaro, Strauss. Replacements: Hogg for van der Merwe (41), Horne for Jackson (70), Fainga’anuku for Reid (76), Hall for Gillies (58), Low for Cusack (59), Eddie for MacDonald (59), Wilson for Strauss (70). Not Used: Matawalu.
Zebre : Halangahu, Sarto, Pratichetti, Garcia, Sinoti, Orquera, Chillon, Aguero, Giazzon, Redolfini, Geldenhuys, van Vuuren, Cristiano, Bergamasco, van Schalkwyk. Replacements: Pace for Garcia (41), Buso for Orquera (60), Martinelli for Chillon (78), Manici for Giazzon (71), Fazzari for Redolfini (53), Caffini for van Vuuren (49). Not Used: De Marchi, Belardo.
Att : 3,313
Ref : Leighton Hodges (RFU)