Glasgow Warriors made it three successive wins in the United Rugby Championship to move clear at the top of the Scottish-Italian Shield, grinding out a 17-6 victory over Zebre Parma.
First-half tries from Lewis Bean and Sione Tuipulotu made the difference for the visitors, in what was at times a scrappy and frenetic affair at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
Having scored within the first five minutes of both previous outings, the Warriors were clearly in the mood to repeat the feat in the Italian sunshine. A sublime break from Rufus McLean saw the winger race from 22 to 22, forcing Zebre to go off their feet at the breakdown and concede the penalty.
Whilst the visitors were unable to convert their initial lineout drive into a try, another penalty conceded by the home side provided a second opportunity. From there, the pack took charge; Johnny Matthews’ initial drive was held up just a few inches short, but Bean was on hand to pick up the ball and barge over from close range. Duncan Weir converted, and Glasgow led 7-0 with five minutes played.
Bean almost made it a quickfire double just five minutes later, as the second-row reached for the line following Ally Miller’s break from a lineout. However, the ball just slipped from the Army man’s grasp, and the chance went begging.
Zebre were growing into the game as the half wore on, holding their own in defence and looking to play at every opportunity. A half-break from Junior Laloifi saw the Warriors penalised at the breakdown, with Carlo Canna striking from the tee to make it 7-3 after 20 minutes.
Weir missed the chance to respond in kind just two minutes later, but the next score was worth the wait for the Warriors. With advantage in hand, George Horne fed Cole Forbes on the blindside and the full-back’s offload out of the tackle sent Rory Darge clear down the touchline. The openside in turn fed Tuipulotu, who flipped the ball on to McLean. When the winger returned the favour, there was no stopping him from 10 metres as the centre crossed the whitewash for the first time in Glasgow colours. His grin was still evident as Weir added the extras, stretching the lead to 14-3 on the half-hour mark.
Canna’s second penalty reduced the deficit, but defences were on top for the remainder of the opening stanza. An impressive turnover penalty from Horne had the Warriors pack roaring their delight, whilst Ryan Wilson’s perfectly-timed tackle on Pierre Bruno stopped the Zebre winger dead inside the Glasgow 22.
With the home fans in fine voice, it was Zebre who came out of the changing rooms with the bit between their teeth. Successive penalties saw Canna guide his team into the Glasgow 22, as the pack looked to stamp their authority on proceedings. However, the Warriors defence was equal to the task, with Weir chipping in with a crucial turnover after good work from the Glasgow lineout defence.
A stop-start affair was short on clear-cut chances, with neither attack able to get into their rhythm. Defences were on top, with Sebastian Cancelliere and Asaeli Tuivuaka enjoying a duel of their own on the wings and Ryan Wilson in the thick of the action up front.
The first chance of the half came on 57 minutes, and it went the way of the Warriors. With advantage in hand, a break from McLean saw the winger beat five defenders and move to within a metre of the whitewash. Weir was on hand to pick up the loose ball and dot down, only for the TMO to rule he had lost control in the act of scoring.
Zebre had an opportunity for points of their own just four minutes later, as Bruno was taken high by Brown as he looked to collect a bouncing ball from Canna’s chip ahead. A somewhat theatrical reaction was ignored by the officials and his team-mates as Canna lined up the shot at goal, only to push the kick wide from 45 metres out.
Indeed, the only score of the second half came from the boot of Weir with 15 minutes to play. With Zebre penalised for not rolling away, the fly-half made no mistake from just outside the 22 on the angle, taking the score to 17-6 in his side’s favour.
It was left to the Glasgow defence to see out proceedings, making it three wins on the bounce and continuing their unbeaten run against Zebre. A six-day turnaround now awaits Danny Wilson’s side, as Leinster come to Scotstoun on Friday for the first-ever Plaster It Purple clash in aid of Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity.
Kick-off 2:00 pm