Glasgow Warriors 36-8 Zebre

A ruthless second-half performance saw Glasgow Warriors claim a hard-earned 36-8 victory over Zebre at Scotstoun this evening, in their final Guinness PRO14 match before the break for the Heineken Champions Cup.

Four tries after the break, coupled with a resilient defensive effort, saw Dave Rennie’s side to the valuable bonus-point win, a result that sees them maintain their position at the top of Conference A.

With attacking intent immediately evident from both sides, an early score seemed inevitable, and it was the home side who struck first. A sublime break from Adam Hastings off the back of a well-worked set-piece saw the fly-half race fully 40 metres, before feeding the supporting Huw Jones for the centre’s second try in as many weeks. Hastings added the extras, and the Warriors led 7-0 after just six minutes.

The visitors had the chance to register their first points of the evening on 10 minutes, winning a penalty 45 metres from goal. Francois Brummer pulled his kick wide, however, and the score remained unchanged.

Zebre continued to probe at the Glasgow defence, benefitting from good field position and some strong carrying from the forward pack. That carrying, though, was met with equally strong defence from the Warriors, with captain Jonny Gray leading from the front.

The pattern of the game continued as such as the half wore on, with Zebre’s attack repelled by resolute Glasgow defence. The Warriors line was eventually breached with five minutes left of the first half, however, with Apisai Tauyavuca the man to touch down for the visitors. Brummer’s conversion hit the upright, leaving the score at 7-5 in Glasgow’s favour.

Undeterred, the Warriors went in search of an immediate reply, as Alex Dunbar’s line break saw the hosts break into the Zebre 22. An indiscretion at the breakdown just a couple of phases later gave Hastings the chance to extend his side’s lead. It was a chance the fly-half duly took, extending Glasgow’s lead to 10-5.

With the last kick of the half, Zebre cut the gap to just two points once again, though. Marcello Violi, taking over kicking duties from Brummer, made no mistake from the tee, taking the score to 10-8 at the interval.

The nip-and-tuck nature of the game continued in the early second half, as both sides looked for a breakthrough. Chris Fusaro’s surging run was only halted by a high tackle from Johan Meyer, the Zebre flanker earning ten minutes in the sin bin as a result.

On 54 minutes, the Warriors took full advantage. Camped in the Zebre 22, George Turner broke away from a rolling maul to race over from five metres for a well-earned score. From right on the touchline, Hastings was deadeye accurate from the tee to take the score to 17-8.

Sensing an opportunity to seize control of the game, Glasgow refused to ease up in intensity. They were rewarded with their third try of the night on 63 minutes. An immediate contribution from Tevita Tameilau, on from the bench for his Warriors debut, and soft hands from George Horne saw Greg Peterson race through a gap for the try, Hastings converting once more.

Scotstoun was still celebrating when the bonus-point try was duly delivered by the very attack. Ruaridh Jackson’s half-break and offload saw Huw Jones race clear in midfield, with the centre doing superbly well to draw the last man and feed George Horne. The scrum-half had just enough pace to evade the Zebre cover defence, finishing with aplomb. With the conversion in front of the posts, Hastings had the simple task of extending his side’s lead yet further, the score reading 31-8 with just under 15 minutes remaining.

With the pressure off, Glasgow produced a sensational fifth try with five minutes remaining, one that had the Warrior Nation on their feet. A flowing 80 metre move saw a number of highlight reel-worthy contributions; an impressive burst from Grant Stewart, a Barbarian-esque behind-the-back offload from Hastings and a typically exuberant sidestep from Niko Matawalu all paved the way for Lee Jones to deliver the scoring pass to Peter Horne, who cantered over from 10 metres. The missed conversion from Hastings did nothing to take the gloss away from a superb score, or the 36-8 margin at the full-time whistle.

Attentions for Dave Rennie’s men will now turn to the opening weekend of Heineken Champions Cup rugby, with English Premiership champions Saracens the visitors to Scotstoun next Sunday.