With the news this week of Scott Cumming’s claw, Fraser Brown’s ongoing concussion worries, and Zander Fagerson’s bizarre sounding gym incident resulting in a foot injury, causing Gregor Townsend a tighthead-ache (badoom, tish) ahead of the forthcoming 6 Nations, Toonie’s former charges proved that they have strength in depth with a ruthless display in Parma.
Zebre, who somewhat surprisingly are not propping up Conference A and sit ahead of the Lions-studded Ospreys courtesy of a bonus point, started well. Hooker D’Apice made a half-break in the 22 and produced a lovely off-load, but Glasgow were able to snaffle the ball back and Ruairidh Jackson cleared to relative safety.
Glasgow took the lead shortly after, an easily kickable penalty was put to touch within 10m of the try-line. The maul was formed, and even with the distraction of the near-skanting of Halanukonuka, it rolled on, Matt Fagerson being in possession as the ball was touched down.
Zebre’s strong start was not a flash in the pan. Within two minutes of the Glasgow try, and with not even ten on the clock, they fired back, number 8 Giammaroili finishing, with Carlos Canna adding the extras from a tight angle to draw level.
After a period of kicking and counter-running with no real penetration, Glasgow gained a foothold, and after multiple phases, Huw Jones kicked and chased, forcing Zebre full-back Padovani over his own try-line. The ensuing 5m scrum was delayed by an injury to Chris Fusaro, who was replaced by Adam Ashe whilst he underwent an HIA. He subsequently failed – adding to Glasgow’s already mountainous injury-list.
The front-row of Allan, MacArthur, and Halanukonuka were playing together for the first-time, but they held their own in the scrum, allowing George Horne to pick up from the back with time and space, the scrum-half duly laying a pass off to an onrushing Lee Jones who glided through underneath the posts.
After twenty-five minutes, Canna missed a 3-point penalty attempt after Halanukonuka was penalised for collapsing a scrum, and Zebre then failed to take anything from their following possession, eventually conceding a penalty for not releasing.
Glasgow did not release the pressure after being gifted possession back. They were awarded a penalty try, a now automatic 7 points, when their maul was illegally pulled down just short of the line.
Zebre reduced the deficit to 10, scrum-half Marcello Violi coverting after taking over kicking responsibilities from the notoriously shaky Canna; you may remember him as the man who missed every attempt at goal for Italy in Vern Cotter’s last match in charge of Scotland.
Zebre again threatened as the clock ran ever closer to forty minutes, but again they were penalised for not releasing, and again Glasgow took full advantage. Russell kicked to touch on the left, the set-piece once again successfully completed, the ball went right and George Horne smuggled his way over in the corner for the bonus-point try and a healthy looking lead going into the break.
First Half: Zebre 10-26 Glasgow Warriors
The home side sparked into life early in the second half, claiming the restart and keeping possession until second-row Mbanda picked up from the back of a ruck a mere 5m from the line, and exploited a gap left by Rob Harley. Violi, possibly struck with a temporary case of Canna-itis, missed the chance for the additional two points.
Zebre had a chance to put serious pressure on Glasgow, but after failing to find touch with a penalty, Finn Russell returned a length of the pitch, perfectly weighted kick deep into Zebre’s corner. Padovani was clattered by Malcolm, and Glasgow turned the ball over. The effervescent Horne keeping the tempo up, and after switching the ball left, to right, and back again, Lee Jones dived over for his second try of the match, which Russell added to with an adroit conversion.
With just over a quarter of the match remaining, Zebre showed that they weren’t going down without a fight, and after a concerted period of pressure, D’Apice touched down. Shockingly enough, it wasn’t converted.
As a comeback may have seemed slightly on, Glasgow again struck with cobra-like speed. Russell’s grubber bounced fortuitously for Jones, who juggled and flicked the ball back to Grigg for an easy run in from 20m out.
The hosts battled gamely on for a fourth try bonus-point, but Glasgow managed to repel numerous attempts at their try-line, substitute Brandon Thomson in particular putting in a solid hit on Bisegni as he found space on the right. Shortly after, Zebre tried to force the issue, they knocked on.
Although missing a host of stars, Glasgow’s strength in depth was too much for their slightly improved Italian opponents. There may have been no Hogg, Seymour, Dunbar, Gibbins, and so on but there was still enough class, experienced or not, on the field to see Glasgow along to a fairly comfortable victory.
The game also cannot pass without mention to the home side’s attire. The zebra’s white stripes seem to have been attacked by a child given a set of highlighters. I think I liked it.
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU, via Wales and Belgium)
SRBlog Man of the Match: Also the sponsor’s MOTM, George Horne was a livewire today, and must be in Townsend’s plans for the 6 Nations given recent form. With Price already nailed-on, SHC looking sharp again, and Laidlaw coming back from injury, one position we’re not short on quality on is at scrum-half.