It was a fairytale return for club legend DTH van der Merwe, as Italian side Zebre were Maple Leaf Rag-dolled all over the Scotstoun pitch in a 10-try trouncing.
It took van der Merwe all of 7 minutes and 10 seconds to open the scoring. A Glasgow scrum, which demolished their Italian opponent’s all night, set up the attacking platform and with numbers on the left-wing it was an easy finish for the Canadian from Adam Hastings’ pass, try number forty-four in Warriors colours for DTH. The extras were added by fly-half Hastings – you will see that young man’s name popping up repeatedly in the following report.
The lead was soon extended not even five minutes later, a quick tap from Johnson on half-way set Hastings away, he was hauled down near the try-line but had the presence of mind to pop the ball up for Ruairidh Jackson to rush on to and crash over. Hastings again converted.
Who had a tie of 15mins in the Zand-bags sweepstake? It took just quarter of an hour before the feisty young tight-head grappled with a Zebre player (sorry, didn’t recognise him or see the shirt number) as the Italians prepared for a line-out.
Back to the on-the-pitch action, and before long this game was over as a contest.
First, Lee Jones kicked on and was prevented from scoring a try of his own courtesy of an off the ball pull-back by Carlo Canna. The stand-off went to the bin, penalty try, and Glasgow automatically went 21-0 up.
Hastings was then hit late in midfield, and rather than take an easy looking 3-pointer, kicked to the left-corner. Harley took the line-out cleanly, van der Merwe came in off his wing to take Pyrgos’ inside pass at pace, and was awarded extra space to run through when opposite number Venditti slipped. Bonus point try, and only 26 minutes on the clock.
Zebre had two attacking line-out opportunities in Glasgow’s 22 in the following moments, but on both occasions were denied by Scott Cummings, who was excellent throughout, particularly in his line-out and mauling work.
Glasgow scored again when Hastings showed a great turn of pace to gallop through and set-up Pyrgos, the subsequent Zebre restart didn’t go 10 metres, Hastings ended up in possession of the ball, and weighted his kick perfectly toward the Zebre line. Canna, only just returned from the sin-bin, felt he had to deal with it before it crossed, but was only met by van der Merwe. He did get him over the try-line. Glasgow’s scrum, which crushed it all night, couldn’t quite get Matt Fagerson over, but Jackson was soon over again and Glasgow had averaged a point per minute.
Half-time: Glasgow Warriors 40-0 Zebre
64 seconds in to the second half, Lee Jones did get his score. Zebre had nobody paying attention at the breakdown, so George Turner just picked the ball up and popped it to the Gold Coast-bound winger.
Zebre finally got on the scoreboard in the 50th minute after some concerted line pressure, with an interruption of handbags, eventually led to Carlo Canna finding room and converting his own score, only for Hastings high-hanging restart to be majestically claimed by Lelia Masaga. A few charging phases, including a lovely off-load from the floor by Cummings, saw Zander Fagerson get the inevitable score.
Captain for the night Callum Gibbins was next over the whitewash from the back of a driving maul, and then former Chiefs man Masaga got in on the act for his first Warriors try.
A knackered looking Zebre then had the joys of George Horne to contend with for the last 8mins, and DTH van der Merwe was denied a hat-trick due to the pass from Hastings going forward (sidenote: I was directly in line with it, it was definitely forward) but a larger winning margin could not have been imagined before the start of this game.
An embarrassingly one-sided affair, this landslide victory puts the Warriors one victory away from securing a home semi-final in the play-offs. Much tougher challenges lie in wait, but some of the rugby was excellent, and a fair bit less error-strewn than some previous performances. Although out of the running for MOTM, Cummings and Sam Johnson were excellent, Matt Fagerson looks like he could carry all day, and Nick Grigg was fighting for metres like a pit-bull. On crack.
Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)
SRBlog Man of the Match: It may have been a fairy-tale return for van der Merwe, but tonight’s story also contained a wizard in the form of Adam Hastings. Bar that last forward pass denying DTH the hat-trick, which he probably did on purpose so I’d give him this award, everything he touched turned to gold. The opposition may not have been of the highest calibre, but Hastings stood tallest in a game featuring some towering displays.