Glasgow Warriors survived a first-half blip to thump Zebre with a comfortable bonus point victory, which once again begged the question; “What exactly does George Horne have to do to get some more game time for Scotland?”
“Horneito” buzzed his way over the try-line in the opening stages to set Glasgow on their way following a swift attack down the left, featuring a nice show and go from the recently re-signed Nick Grigg. Horneito, as always, had run the perfect support line to be on his right shoulder as the last defender was sucked in.
Another youngster who’ll be looking to work his way into Gregor Townsend’s plans after making his return from injury, Matt Fagerson, put Glasgow into a comfortable lead with only 10mins on the clock when he finished off a flowing move from close-range.
Glasgow then lost their way a little bit following their explosive start. Fagerson and Pete Horne did well to prevent Michelangelo Biondelli from placing the ball down once he had crossed the try-line, but Zebre soon scored off the back of the 5m scrum through Daniele Rimpelli.
The “Return of the Naks” to Scotstoun had seen him provide some of his trademark off-loads, and one to Oli Kebble nearly saw the burly South African, playing at tight-head for the first time in his Glasgow career, get through the last lines of Zebre defence, but three men eventually managed to haul him down.
Everyone’s new favourite ref, Joy Neville, gave a contentious penalty against Horneito as he went to force a turnover right in front of the Glasgow sticks, which Biondelli converted, and then the almost unthinkable happened: Zebre took the lead.
Glasgow spilled the ball on their own line-out, and Zebre took full advantage, spreading the ball quickly from left to right, where Junior Laloifi seared into space and found replacement Marcelo Violi for a simple finish. A stunned Scotstoun crowd had seen a 14-point lead turned into a 3-point deficit in under half an hour.
Normality resumed just before the end of the half, when George Turner – whose work in the loose is on par with that of Scotland’s hooker options of Brown and McInally – peeled off the back of a maul and off-loaded from the deck for Horneito, who bounced off full-back Laloifi and stretched over the line for his 30th try in Warriors’ colours from only 54 appearances.
Half-time: Warriors 21 – 17 Zebre
With standards having slipped in the first half, head coach Dave Rennie must have fired a few verbal rockets in the changing room, because Glasgow found a turbo-boost in the second half which you’d usually only see in a “Fast & Furious” movie.
Mesu Dolokoto had only just come as an HIA replacement for George Turner, but when Nakarawa was held up just shy of the line, up went one of his tentacles for the off-load, to leave his compatriot the easiest of scores.
Just a couple of minutes later, a fabulous pass from Pete Horne, who looks so much better at stand-off when he has his wee brother playing alongside him, sent Glasgow on their way.
As Glasgow battered at the line, a nice switch of momentum from Tom Gordon, who again impressed at openside, found Horne Snr in space, and his cross-kick found DTH van der Merwe in acres of space on the left-wing. Surprisingly, it was the Canadian’s first Pro14 try in 16 months.
Rampant Glasgow soon added to their total, and if you’d placed a bet on Horneito scoring a hat-trick, you’d probably have started crying into your betting slip.
Horneitio dummied and hit the NOS from the base of the ruck, and as he motored toward the left-hand corner, full-back Laloifi took him into touch with a high tackle 5m from the try-line. Joy Neville awarded the penalty try, Laloifi went to the bin, and Horneito’s tremendous work was done for the night, as he was replaced by the newest kid of the scrum-half block, Jamie Dobie. (We need to start fattening some of these young lads up; it’s props we need, not scrum-halves.)
As Zebre tried to reduce the deficit, they conceded a penalty for a risky clear out on McDowall in the Glasgow 22, handing possession back to the now rampant hosts.
Dobie performed a wrap-around play in his own half, and was stopped just short of scoring a sensational solo score, but Tom Gordon did finish the job just a few phases later for his first Warriors’ try. Jackson converted, to maintain the 100% off the tee record that Pete Horne had started.
A bit of a mess at the restart stopped Glasgow’s streak of 35 unanswered points, Pierre Bruno finishing clinically when offered the opportunity, but when Violi missed touch with a penalty, two pieces of rampaging wing-play, and one lovely off-load from Kyle Steyn allowed Dolokoto a second easy try on his debut.
A shaky section during the first-half, which the Warriors won’t get away with against top-class opposition, was sandwiched by some wonderful, free-flowing, off-loading rugby. Nakarawa, despite conceding a silly penalty during the first half, led the way up front. Welcome home, Uncle Naks.
Referee: Joy Neville (IRFU)
SRB Man of the Match: as impressive as Nakarawa was, I have to agree with the sponsors and give it to George “Horneito” Horne. His service is accurate, he races to the breakdown like a greyhound, and his ability to turn an innocuous looking gap at those breakdowns into territory and tries inspired Glasgow to what turned into an easy victory.