Glasgow Warriors v Zebre
One of those nail-biting arm-wrestles that have often been the backdrop to Scottish/Italian tussles was played out at Scotstoun on Friday night, where the saving grace was Glasgow emerged victorious for their third RaboDirect PRO12 win on the bounce.
Fighting back from a 0-13 deficit within as many minutes, gritty Glasgow, who had made 13 changes from last week’s win against Connacht, found the means to triumph in a game that was beginning to look like one of those banana skins.
RaboDirect Man of the Match Tim Swinson, Graeme Morrison and the prolific DTH van der Merwe were the home try scorers, the latter notching his fifth touchdown in three games.
The Canadian left the field after setting up Morrison's try, complaining of pain in the hamstring area. He will be subject to further assessment, as will Moray Low, whose complaint is in the knee area.
Glasgow started in expansive mode, belying the torrential rain, but a forward pass quashed an attack from their own 22 and off scrum possession Zebre went through the phases to be awarded a breakdown penalty, which Luciano Orquera goaled after 4 minutes.
Debutant Scottish Rugby Elite Development scrum-half Sean Kennedy made a decent thrust but Zebre doused any threat from a Ruaridh Jackson kick ahead and when Glasgow were penalised in the aftermath of a tackle, captain Gonzalo Garcia thumped over the goal from his own half.
Zebre built on that lead with a 12th minute try which saw Leonardo Sarto make far too much territory for home comfort on the right and the resultant quick ball enabled Orquera to surge over for a try which he converted to establish a 13-0 gap.
In Glasgow’s riposte, Jackson almost found space but could not offload to the supporting Chris Fusaro but from phases Glasgow earned a 17th minute penalty. Sadly, Jackson miscued.
Before the quarter hour had elapsed, however, Glasgow were on the scoreboard. Jackson’s high ball was guddled by the Zebre defence, including their last line, and Swinson got a large boot to the ball and then satisfied TMO Iain Ramage that he had got the touchdown. Jackson converted.
Zebre then found themselves short-handed as first Filippo Cristiano and then Mauro Bergamasco were yellow-carded, the former for foul play, the latter after he had impeded Jackson’s quickly taken tap penalty.
When it required composure and patience Glasgow got sucked into close quarter cat and mouse and a penalty enabled Zebre to clear their lines.
Another penalty as Welsh referee Hodges reasoned that Fraser Thomson’s break had benefited from obstruction saw Garcia, after an interminably protracted routine, land his second goal.
Zebre saw Cristiano return to the fray but Glasgow were determined to make their numerical advantage count and after some quality poundage at a close-range scrum the ball emerged for van der Merwe to display dexterity, balance and some quick-witted acrobatics to dot down in Sarto’s tackle before his momentum took him into touch in goal.
TMO Ramage was required to rule again and the Canadian’s enterprise was duly rewarded. Jackson missed the touchline conversion but Glasgow were now looking altogether more purposeful.
Sure enough, before half-time, DTH was at it again. He found space where none appeared to exist and managed to offload to Morrison who steamed in for the try. Jackson converted imperiously from the touchline and after the rollercoaster first-half Glasgow led.
Glasgow ran into a cul de sac early in the second half but it deserved rather better than the harsh penalty from the referee against Finlay Gillies, which Orquera nailed after another eternity of preparation to level the scores at 19-all after 45 minutes.
Zebre sought to play the game at a slow pace but Glasgow could not mould the continuity at this point to break up their pattern and an abortive penalty from the right by Jackson just after the hour did not ease the nerves.
Moving into the final ten minutes and a scrum offence penalty saw substitute Peter Horne blooter the ball towards Glasgow Club Scotstoun and beyond – fortunately it bisected the posts too and Glasgow regained the lead.
Low’s ill-luck continued as he was stretchered off with five minutes remaining as Zebre full-back Daniel Halangahu failed with a penalty and Glasgow held on.
Full-time: Warriors 22 Zebre 19
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Fraser Thomson; 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Byron McGuigan, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 DTH van der Merwe; 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Sean Kennedy; 1 Gordon Reid, 2 Finlay Gillies, 3 Mike Cusack, 4 Tom Ryder, 5 Tim Swinson, 6 Angus Macdonald, 7 Chris Fusaro (CAPTAIN), 8 Josh Strauss
Substitutes: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Ofa Fainga'anuku, 18 Moray Low, 19 James Eddie, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Stuart Hogg
Zebre: 15 Daniel Halangahu; 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Gonzalo Garcia (CAPTAIN), 11 Sinoti Sinoti; 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Alberto Chillon; 1 Matias Aguero, 2 Davide Giazzon, 3 Luca Redolfini, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 5 Michael van Vuren, 6 Filippo Cristiano, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 8 Andries van Schalkwyk
Substitutes: 16 Andrea Mancini, 17 Carlo Fazzari, 18 Andrea De Marchi, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Nicola Belardo, 21 Luca Martinelli, 22 Paolo Buso, 23 Samuele Pace
Referee: L Hodges (WRU