Glasgow’s Rainbow Cup campaign got off to the worst possible start after swashbuckling Benetton dominated Warriors and gave them what can only be described as a morale sapping bit of a doing ahead of the 1872 Cup decider next week.
Monty Ioane scored early for the hosts in the corner after a bright Glasgow start. Having made their way into the Benetton 22 after a number of phases and looking confident with ball in hand, Sam Johnson tried a Finn Russell-like grubber which was blocked off. Marco Zanon was able to gather the loose ball and make an initial break and Italian international Ioane brushed off the last man, Cole Forbes, to swagger through.
Lock Nicola Cannone added another try after some lovely off-loading play – a familiar tactic from the Italians during the regular season – sent him into space and he swatted off “Horneito” George Horne before crossing for a nightmarish start for the Warriors’ defence.
Benetton were making ground with the same ease that Italy had done against Scotland in the Women’s Six Nations last week, and only a rip from Fraser Brown around 5m from the Warriors line let some pressure off, allowing Horne to boot the ball deeper towards Benneton territory.
Veteran Benetton full-back Jayden Hayward had put a couple of cracking kicks in behind the Warriors towards’ touch, and another led to the first Captain’s Challenge, but ultimately a second try for Cannone.
George Turner’s line-out was pinched in the air and a few phases later, Cannone galloped through the space off a one-out ball.
Fraser Brown had questioned whether Toa Halafihi had held onto Zander Fagerson’s leg for too long at the clear out, preventing him from getting to Cannone, but after the officials reviewed the footage, the try stood.
Hayward’s boot which had caused Glasgow all kinds of trouble then created some bother for his own side when his booming kick downfield rolled into touch behind the try-line.
Warriors won the penalty at the scrum and rather than take the points to get themselves on the board, Ross Thompson opted to go for touch from about 25m out, but it nearly led to another Benetton try.
The maul went nowhere, so Turner peeled off the back and drove towards the line only to be turned over by Halafihi, and Paolo Garbisi, who had run brilliantly with the ball from the stand-off position on a few occasions, broke clear. Thankfully for Glasgow, Forbes had got back into position to cover his pass to Ioane which would have led to another score for the winger.
Another kick which went dead from Benetton gave Warriors the scrum on the Benetton 22, and as with the last scrum, Warriors were awarded the penalty after good scrummaging from Zander Fagerson.
Glasgow opted to scrum again, and although it went down early, Horne went close to the line with a sniping run.
More penalties followed, playing with advantage, the returning Kyle Steyn perhaps should have fed a pass inside to Sam Johnson with the Warriors going wide, and it was that man Halafihi again who claimed the turnover just a couple of metres from his own try-line to see out a disastrous half for Danny Wilson’s side.
Half-time: Benneton 21 – 0 Glasgow Warriors
Horne’s early break and kick and chase was covered by Garbisi who dotted down behind the try-line for a goal-line drop-out, and Glasgow were then awarded a penalty for Federico Ruzza trying to get his hands on the ball when a ruck had been formed, only for Turner’s throw to go over everyone’s head and Ross Thompson could only knock on as he tried to gather.
Another Glasgow spill, this time by Fotu Lokotui close to the Benneton line, signalled an end of Horne’s work for the day with Ali Price coming on, and Benetton then won their own put-in to a scrum after a thumping challenge by Juan Ignacio Brex on Johnson gave them possession nearly 50m up the park.
Ian Keatley then replaced Thompson to give the Warriors half-back pairing a far more experienced look, but Keatley’s first involvement saw him throw a loose pass and Benneton were then awarded a penalty with Fagerson entering the breakdown at an angle. Garbisi banged it through for a 24-0 lead with 52mins on the clock.
Glasgow thought they had got on the scoreboard as an hour of game time approached, Gray helped enable a turnover in midfield, and when Keatley found Rufus McLean out wide, the Scottish speedster raced down the right before passing to Price on the inside, and Forbes was on his shoulder to race in.
However, a successful Captain’s Challenge by Dewalt Duvenage highlighted a high tackle by Johnson on former Warrior Leonardo Sarto before Glasgow had nicked possession, so the try was overturned and Benetton were awarded the penalty.
Johnson escaped further sanction due to his tackle being made as Sarto was on the way down, but Benetton took full advantage by going to the corner, and that man Halafihi scored easily from the line-out.
Another Glasgow handling error and hack ahead by Brex nearly saw Sarto add further sauce to the scoreline, but Ollie Smith was dragged over his own try-line to give Benetton a 5m scrum. Michele Lamaro became the next Benetton player to score a few phases later. 36-0 Benetton.
Sarto then dropped the ball just as it looked like he was going to further embarrass Glasgow, but Keatley’s excellent awareness from the drop-out saw him cross-kick to the left where Forbes, who has looked an astute piece of business in his short spell at the club, legged it home practically the full length of the pitch to dispel the ignominy of being grannied.
Gianmarco Lucchesi scored another maul try, despite Marius Mitrea calling “use it”, he allowed them to continue rolling forward, to put more gloss on Benetton’s performance and crack another egg onto the face of the Warriors.
Keatley and Nick Grigg grabbed late consolation scores to make it slightly less embarrassing, but the woeful start, pacified defence and far too many handling errors had already doomed the Warriors to a disappointing loss.
SRBlog POTM: hard to choose when they’ve been so thoroughly outclassed and played so poorly. Fraser Brown did alright, won a couple of big turnovers, but as a captain, he should be driving the standards expected into the players. Despite failing to deal with Ioane early doors, Cole Forbes will get the nod as he was involved in Glasgow’s best attacking moves.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)