A Johnny Matthews hat-trick stole the headlines at Scotstoun this evening, as Glasgow Warriors paid tribute to the departing Rob Harley with a 40-12 victory over Zebre Parma at Scotstoun.
Jamie Dobie, Oli Kebble and Ryan Wilson were also on the scoresheet as the home side ran in six tries in front of the Warrior Nation, continuing their pursuit of a home knockout tie by securing maximum points in their final regular season outing at Scotstoun.
On an emotional evening at Scotstoun, the Warriors came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders. An early 50-22 from Stafford McDowall saw the home side get the rolling maul going early, electing to keep the pressure on after forcing the visitors into infringing. At the second attempt, it was Matthews who was driven over for the score, Ross Thompson converting for a 7-0 lead after just five minutes.
Straight away, Glasgow doubled up, with the front-row union taking centre stage. A turnover penalty won by Murphy Walker was duly dispatched to the 22 by Thompson, before a Matthews break took play to five metres out. Quick ball from Jamie Dobie saw Oli Kebble fix his man with a sidestep before barrelling over in front of the East Stand, Thompson adding the extras for a 14-0 advantage.
Even without the ball, it was clear that the Warriors were the team on top. A solid defensive effort saw McDowall and Steyn combine to good effect, whilst Domingo Miotti was looking lively on his first start at full-back.
A clinical opening half-hour had another score in store for the home side, with the forwards once again battering their way over the line. A turnover from Steyn allowed Thompson to pin the visitors in their own 22, before a rolling maul was stopped inches short of the whitewash. There was to be no denying Ryan Wilson from close range, though, the skipper reaching out and dotting down for a score that – allied to Thompson’s conversion – handed the home side a 21-0 lead after just 25 minutes.
The Scotstoun faithful were in the mood for a first-half bonus-point, and their team duly delivered just seven minutes later. A spilled ball in midfield saw Sebastian Cancelliere hack the ball downfield, with the winger joined by Jamie Dobie and Jack Dempsey in the chase. Carlo Canna beat them all to the ball, but was powerless to prevent himself being carried over and conceding a five-metre scrum. It would be Dobie who would snipe over from the base of that scrum to secure the fourth try, Thompson’s conversion giving the hosts a 28-0 advantage over their visitors.
Indeed, arguably the only blemish on Glasgow’s opening stanza came with the final play of the half. On the back foot, Alessandro Fusco picked off a pass to run fully 60 metres for Zebre’s first try, Antonio Rizzi unable to convert to leave the half-time score at 28-5 to the home side.
Undeterred, the Warriors duly re-established their grip on the game just two minutes after the restart. It came in familiar fashion, to boot, as a Thompson penalty to touch resulted in another maul that was too much for Zebre to handle. Matthews would be the man to profit once more, rumbling over for his second of the evening. The conversion rattled off the upright, but the Warrior Nation were in no mood to complain.
It was proving to be a momentous night for Matthews, and the hooker duly made sure it would be one he wouldn’t be forgetting for a while. Another rolling maul on 62 minutes gave him all the opportunity he needed to complete his hat-trick, diving over for the score before celebrating with aplomb in front of the West Stand. The conversion from Thompson brought up 40, and the home crowd were in fine voice.
The visitors were still giving everything as they looked for a reply, but the Glasgow defence continued to hold firm. A charge for the line from Asaeli Tuivuaka was ended by a mob-handed effort from Cancelliere and Kiran McDonald, with the Warriors refusing to budge in the face of the Italian attack.
Zebre would eventually find their second try, however, with two minutes of the match remaining. After a potential wonder try from Cancelliere was ruled out for offside, a close-range barrage from the Zebre pack saw Luca Andreani force his way over for the score. The conversion narrowed the gap, but there was to be no doubt as to the final result.
A bonus-point win on a history-making night at Scotstoun – a week off now allows the Warriors to recharge, before an EPCR Challenge Cup looms large on the horizon for Danny Wilson’s men.
Kick-off 2:00 pm