Given the snow and hail that was present in Glasgow throughout Friday, it was a real surprise to see this game kick off in glorious sunshine.
Gregor Townsend showed his sentimental side for the second successive season, giving regular season home farewells to Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Duncan Weir, Taqele Naiyaravoro and Glenn Bryce, as well as including Leone Nakarawa. The changes to the side seemed to knock the flow of the Glasgow side, and it was Zebre who had the better of the first 15 minutes, missing a long range penalty on 10 minutes. Then Nakarawa came to play.
The Fijian picked up after some excellent Glasgow handling. Three would-be tacklers were dispatched like they didn’t exist. The roar from the Scotstoun faithful when the 2nd row touched down was incredible and Duncan Weir casually added the extras. Glasgow were up and running.
Zebre had very little to lose, and everything to gain by throwing the ball around. The Warriors also seemed keen to give the Italians hope, with a horrendous error at the restart when no one took the ball left Pat MacArthur with a 5m lineout pressure throw. The Zebre forwards got up well, stealing possession, and despite some excellent line speed and cover defence, the Italian side got their reward. Canna couldn’t get the extras, leaving it 7-5 to Glasgow.
At this stage of the season with a dry park, Glasgow’s expansive game usually starts to reap rewards. It was to be the case in this game as well. First on 23 minutes Adam Ashe crashed through 2 tacklers to dot down after a lovely offload from Grayson Hart. Weir added 2 but there was plenty more to come.
Glenn Bryce had looked lively in the first 30 minutes, and he was next to get his name on the scoreboard. The Edinburgh bound fullback showed some great gas to cross the line, from 35m out. Weir again with the easy 2.
The bonus point was secured by 34 minutes, Glasgow’s fastest bonus of the season. Another departing Warrior, Taqele Nairayavaro, was at his rampaging best in attack, bouncing a number of bodies out his path before touching down. Weir made it 28-5 to Glasgow, and the crowd were baying for blood at this stage.
The crowd only had to wait 2 more minutes before another try came their way. Bryce scored the points but this one was a real team effort, with lovely offloads from Nakarawa, including a ‘round the tackler, one handed flick’ effort that was just outrageous, and some great hands from the backs culminating in Bryce strolling over. Weir again knocked over the extras.
That should have been that for the half, but Zebre were not out yet. Some truly horrific defending from Glasgow, particularly Naiyaravoro, let the Italian side through to score their second try of the night. In a one sided affair like this one you can get away with errors like this but Taqele has continually shown a total inability to defend. The guy makes Tim Visser look secure…
HT Glasgow 35 – 10 Zebre
Unfortunately for the Italians, the Glaswegian charity ended on 39 minutes. Two minutes into the second period Nakarawa had his second try, with possibly the best one handed pick up of a ball you will ever see. It was exhibition stuff from the Fijian, with another try on 52 minutes, followed by an assist for Greg Peterson’s first Glasgow try. Weir kept up his 100% form, making it 56-10.
Ali Price then got in on the act, showing us why everyone around Scotstoun is very excited about his potential with a searing break straight from the restart. The young replacement 9 had enough pace to go the distance, and one can only imagine the quality if he can add some of Mike Blair’s game management to his skill set. Weir again added the extras to continue a metronomic kicking performance.
Nakarawa was everywhere, but his Fijian counterpart Jerry Yanuyanutawa had a brilliant game in the loose, rampaging about the park all evening. He was finally replaced on 67 minutes, having had in my opinion his best ever Warriors game. Gordon Reid was his replacement, ensuring that the level of ‘athlete’ on show did not diminish.
The last score of the night was indicative of the difference in quality between the 2 teams. More accurate offloading sent Mark Bennett clear, with the centre even managing not to trip up on the Scotstoun in goal area. He then sportingly popped the ball to Duncan Weir under the posts for the try.
A lovely gesture for the departing 10 and after knocking over the extras to take his personal haul to 25, the 24 year old was given a standing ovation by the Scotstoun crowd when replaced by Finn Russell. A lovely end to an evening filled with emotion.
Now to secure a home semi-final…
SRBlog Man of the Match: Leone Nakarawa was the sponsor’s choice, and there is no argument here. The big Fijian is just a remarkable talent and whatever big money French side he has joined has landed a cracker. On any other night Bryce, Weir or Yanuyanutawa could have got the nod, but this was Leone’s night..
Glasgow Warriors: G. Bryce, Naiyaravoro, Bennett, Dunbar, Lamont, Weir, Hart, Yanuyanutawa, MacArthur, Rae, Peterson, Nakarawa, Harley, Favaro, Ashe.
Replacements: Russell for Weir (74), Price for Hart (51), Reid for Yanuyanutawa (67), Fagerson for Rae (57), Wilson for Nakarawa (77). Not Used: Brown, Swinson, Seymour.
Zebre: Beyers, Toniolatti, Boni, Garcia, Van Zyl, Canna, Burgess, De Marchi, Fabiani, Chistolini, Geldenhuys, Bortolami, Caffini, Cristiano, Ruzza.
Replacements: Palazzani for Toniolatti (51), Bisegni for Garcia (14), Postiglioni for De Marchi (53), Coria Marchetti for Fabiani (70), Ceccarelli for Chistolini (47), van Schalkwyk for Caffini (41), Koegelenberg for Ruzza (57). Not Used: Haimona.