Glasgow Warriors ended their 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 campaign in style this afternoon, as Danny Wilson’s men ran in six tries to claim a bonus-point 46-25 victory over Benetton.
TJ Ioane was one of the try-scorers in a Player of the Match performance, with Fotu Lokotui, Nick Grigg, Niko Matawalu, George Horne and Johnny Matthews joining the Samoan in crossing the whitewash.
It was the visitors who enjoyed most of the early possession, as the men from Treviso established themselves in the Glasgow 22. A physical Warriors defensive line was up to the challenge, however, as a couple of bone-jarring hits from Kiran McDonald set the tone for the hosts.
When given the opportunity, though, the Warriors looked in the mood to play. A delightful cross-kick from Thompson found Ratu Tagive in space, and the winger’s offload sent McDonald charging into the Benetton 22. A slip at the vital moment denied the flanker from sending Horne in for a try, but Benetton’s over-eager defence shot offside to present Thompson with a shot at goal. The fly-half duly obliged in converting, and Glasgow led by three.
An open match was allowing both sides the chance to stretch their opponents, on a crisp afternoon in Glasgow’s west end. Only a massive hit in defence from Tagive denied Benetton from converting a four-on-one overlap, before smart kicking from Thompson pinned the visitors in their own 22.
It was from one of these kicks that the fly-half doubled his side’s advantage, after Benetton flew up offside in pursuit of a clearing kick. Yet back came Benetton, and it would be the Italians who notched the game’s opening try. Successive lineouts in the Glasgow 22 eventually saw Gianmarco Lucchesi driven over from close-range, despite Eduardo Padovani’s conversion attempt coming up short to preserve the home side’s lead.
Glasgow’s response was almost immediate. Another offside penalty against Benetton saw Thompson kick for the corner, and it was from there the Warriors struck. Whilst Lokotui was unable to make it over the line from a well-worked back peel, the Tongan needed no second invitation to have another go just one phase later. Thompson converted for a 13-5 lead, Niccolo Cannone’s yellow card moments later compounding Benetton’s misery.
Whilst the home side couldn’t take advantage of the extra man, there would be one further score before the interval and it would come courtesy of some vintage Fijian flair. After referee Frank Murphy awarded a penalty to the hosts on their own five-metre line, Matawalu – on for Tagive out wide – decided to inject some pace into proceedings. A quick tap saw the winger race up to halfway, before good recycling saw Horne break the line and feed Ollie Smith. The full-back was dragged down ten metres out, but his offload ricocheted off the boot of Grigg to allow the centre to dive over for the score. Thompson added the extras, and the scoreline read 20-5 at the break.
Yet as they did in the first half, Benetton came racing out of the blocks at the start of the second 40. A freak bounce allowed the visitors to narrow the gap less than two minutes into the half, as Riccardo Favretto scooped up a charged-down kick to run over untouched. Padovani’s kick was on target, with a further penalty on 51 minutes making it a five-point game.
After being camped in their own 22 for much of the opening exchanges, Glasgow needed to make their attacking chances count. Once more, it was Matawalu who provided the vital intervention; after another Lokotui charge was stopped three metres out, the Fijian was more than happy to take the ball and dive over from close range. Once again Thompson’s conversion was on target, and Glasgow fans could breathe a little more comfortably.
With one arch-finisher having made his mark, it was time for one of the others in Glasgow’s ranks to do likewise on the hour mark. A beautifully orchestrated set-play saw Grigg feed Thompson, the fly-half producing a superb fend to accelerate through the gap. He nearly didn’t need to look to know that Horne was on his shoulder, as the scrum-half accelerated away to score under the posts. The conversion was successful, and a 34-15 cushion had suddenly opened up for the hosts.
Benetton struck back with a try of their own three minutes later, as they pressed for a route back into the match. Whilst Luca Petrozzi found himself denied by an excellent tackle by Smith, there was nothing the Glasgow defence could do when the ball was recycled to Marco Zanon in open space five metres out. Padovani’s conversion was pulled wide, the only blot on a well-worked score.
The game was becoming increasingly end-to-end, a fact proven as the Warriors struck back with ten minutes to play. A powerful line-break from Robbie Fergusson saw the home side get in behind their opponents, and when Horne’s snipe was stopped inches short Ioane was on hand to power over. The conversion attempt rattled the upright, but the Warriors were looking comfortable.
Back came the visitors once more; having looked like their best weapon all match, it was once again the maul that yielded the bonus-point score for the side from Treviso. Corniel Els was the man to emerge with the ball, Padovani striking the post with the conversion.
The final word, however, would go to the Warriors. After debutant Jordan Lenac forced Benetton to concede a five-metre scrum and the pack earned a penalty, a quick tap allowed Matthews to burrow over with the clock in the red for Glasgow’s sixth score of the afternoon. Ian Keatley added the extras with the final kick of the match, as the home side reflected on a job well done.
Kick-off 5:30 pm