Glasgow Warriors made it five wins on the spin in the United Rugby Championship this evening, grinding out a 13-3 victory over Benetton on a wintry evening at Scotstoun.
A try-scoring, Player of the Match performance from Ollie Smith, allied to a powerful finish from Jack Dempsey made sure that the points would be staying in Glasgow as the Warriors kept pace with the leaders in the United Rugby Championship.
Having absorbed an early wave of Benetton pressure, the home side would waste no time in getting themselves on the scoreboard. A powerful burst from Oli Kebble allowed George Horne to pin the visitors in their own half with a clever box-kick, before Thomas Gordon was on hand to latch on to the ball to earn the penalty. Domingo Miotti made no mistake with his first attempt of the night, registering his first points in Glasgow colours for a 3-0 lead with four minutes on the clock.
Tomas Albornoz tied things up just two minutes later with a penalty of his own, with the Italians keen to look for an early opening in the Glasgow defence. Only an outstanding cover tackle from Sam Johnson denied the visitors a score with 15 minutes on the clock, Walter Fifita completing the defensive set with a booming clearance kick.
The Warrior Nation then thought their side was over for a score of their own just a minute later, as Rufus McLean turned on the afterburners after hacking a loose ball downfield to outstrip the Benetton defence to the loose ball. The officials deemed the winger had insufficient control of the ball when grounding, though, ruling out the score to the dismay of the Scotstoun faithful.
Glasgow wouldn’t be denied for long, though. Advantage in hand 10 metres from the Benetton try-line, a sublime line from Smith saw the full-back crash through two attempted tackles, before thumping the ball down in front of the East Stand. Miotti pulled the conversion attempt wide, but the Warriors led 8-3 with 22 minutes played.
Back came Benetton once more, with Fifita’s defensive skills on full display with a crucial rip on Joaquin Riera five metres from his own try-line. Indeed, playing into the wind it was the Glasgow defence that was seeing the majority of the action, the pack fronting up to their visitors to repel each oncoming salvo.
A scrappy return to play after the interval was quickly followed by the first real flashpoint of the second stanza, as Lorenzo Cannone was shown a yellow card for a tip tackle on Fraser Brown five metres from the Benetton try-line. With the man advantage, the Warriors set about exerting all manner of pressure, and the Italian outfit eventually cracked. It would be Dempsey who would bulldoze his way over despite the attention of four Benetton defenders, Ross Thompson – on for Miotti – pushing the conversion wide to leave the score at 13-3 after 57 minutes.
With the sleet making handling conditions even trickier, Glasgow’s best chances were often snuffed out by the Scotstoun conditions. A Fifita charge saw the Warriors set up camp in the Benetton 22 before the visitors forced a knock-on, whilst Smith continued to look lively from the back-field with his acceleration and footwork causing the Italian side to scramble on more than one occasion.
As the game entered the closing stages, the visitors suddenly sprung into life with ball in hand, enjoying their first spell of possession in the Glasgow 22 since the break. Yet the Warriors defence was up to the task, a heavy hit from Gordon setting up the opportunity for Johnny Matthews to steal the ball in the shadow of his own posts.
That would be the final attacking platform for either side, as the Warriors set about closing out the match. It was left to Jamie Dobie to chip the ball into the North Stand to bring about the full-time whistle, and rubber-stamp a crucial win over their Scottish-Italian Shield rivals in the process.
A down week now allows Danny Wilson’s men to recover and recharge after two physical affairs, before a first visit to Llanelli in almost four years; a clash with the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets awaits in two weeks’ time, as the Warriors look to continue their fine run of URC form.
Kick-off 5:30 pm