Glasgow Warriors v Benetton Treviso
Glasgow Warriors got their New Year off to a flying start with a 41-7 bonus point win over Benetton Treviso.
Gregor Townsend's side capitalised on a red card offence by the Italian visitors inside five minutes at Scotstoun Stadium though the home fans were made to wait until deep into the second half for the try that would take them, temporarily at least, into second in the RaboDirect PRO12 table.
The first half was characterised by Glasgow dominance and a trio of tries, while the second half was a nerve-wracking battle as the home side fought for control.
Townsend said afterwards: "There is no doubt the red card helped us, but Treviso are a very good side. Their position in the table is testament to that and they've got six wins already this season. We saw in the latter part of the first half and into the second forty that they were willing to have a go and put pressure on our defence.
"But I'm very pleased we scored five tries and took the bonus point in the end, that was a big target for us as we went into the second half.
"We're on a good run at the moment, three wins in a row and that's something we can build on and take a lot of positives from."
A flurry of tries from DTH van der Merwe, Tommy Seymour, Niko Matawalu and a brace from Stuart Hogg had the home crowd on their feet in an encounter that sees the home side move up to second in the RaboDirect Pro 12 table.
The game was off to a fiery and fast start, with the Warriors dominating in the opening minutes. The visitors were penalised right in front of the posts, and it was a straight forward opening kick for Ruaridh Jackson, giving the Warriors a 3-0 lead, four minutes into the match.
Treviso's night became a much tougher prospect as Fijian flanker Manoa Vosawai received a straight red card for a spear tackle on Warriors captain Alastair Kellock.
While Glasgow pressed and probed to take advantage of the extra space it was a full fifteen minutes before the Warriors extended their lead, another Jackson penalty giving the home side a 6-0 cushion.
On 25 minutes the Warriors breached the Treviso whitewash for the first time. Swift ball and a dart from Stuart Hogg fed Seymour on the right touchline and the winger chipped forward. A kindly bounce fell for the chasing DTH van der Merwe who took advantage of a wrong footed full back to touch down.
Minutes later it was Ryan Wilson who broke the line, stepping inside his man as the space unfolded in front of him. Wilson offloaded to Hogg who took on his man on the outside and timed the dive over the try line to perfection.. Another successful conversion from out wide, took Ruaridh Jackson to 4 from 4, and the Warriors to a 20-0 lead half an hour into the game.
The next score was all Seymour's own work as Treviso threatened the Glasgow try-line. The winger followed the example of his fly-half team mate Jackson from the week before and plucked the ball out of the air. The interception in hand, Seymour took off and scampered a full 90 metres to under the Treviso posts, Jackson would knock over another conversion.
Half Time: 27-0
It was crucial that the Warriors maintained their focus and kept their edge despite their solid lead; if they wanted to come away with the bonus point win.
The second half started with a kicking exchange, marking the start of a real battle between the two teams for dominance, with the visitors keeping in amongst the big men at the breakdown to neutralise the extra man. It appeared to be working, as the Warriors were guilty of one or two misplaced passes and handling errors.
On 51 minutes Treviso finally got points on the board, with lock Francesco Minto touching down for the Italian side, Kristopher Burton slotted the ball neatly between the uprights for the extra two.
Despite a nervy middle part of the second half, the extra man played well into the hands of the Warriors and it was the ever popular Niko Matawalu who scampered over for the important bonus point try. The ball made it's way laterally across the 10 metre line, Niko skipped past his defender and raced into the corner. The importance of a bonus point win in what is an increasingly tight race in the table obvious to the players and fans in Scotstoun.
Stuart Hogg finished the night off in style with his second try with substitute Duncan Weir wrapping up the night's work as the Warriors head for the Heineken Cup and Ulster next Friday night at Ravenhill.