RaboDirect Pro12: Glasgow book home semi-final after Zebre win
RaboDirect Pro12: Glasgow Warriors are 54-0 winners against Zebre and book a home semi-final
Glasgow Warriors ran in eight tries as they swept aside Zebre 54-0 to secure their first RaboDirect Pro12 home semi-final.
A rampant performance at Scotstoun Stadium saw Gregor Townsend’s side set a new record for the quickest try-scoring bonus point in the various iterations of the Pro12 as they racked up four tries in the opening 19 and a half minutes and added a further two before half-time.
The Scots had won seven on the bounce and needed just a win against the Italians to set up a clash with three-time Pro12 winners Munster next week and couldn’t have asked for a better start against a resurgent Zebre side who had beaten Edinburgh and Ospreys in their last two outings.
Making his first home appearance in the league since November’s defeat to Newport Gwent Dragons, Stuart Hogg began the rout in the opening minute before tries from forwards Ryan Grant and Al Kellock with Hogg also scoring the bonus point try midway through the first half to give the Warriors a comfortable 26-0 lead.
Alex Dunbar and Nikola Matawalu added tries before the interval with Duncan Weir missing just one conversion to give the Warriors a 40-0 half-time lead.
Geoff Cross became the third forward to get in among the tries with their seventh before crowd favourite Matawalu got the eighth—his 15th try in his two seasons in the Pro12.
Scotland wing Sean Lamont took an excellent high catch from the kick-off to make the initial break down the right wing that led to the opening try.
The Warriors switched it to the left through the hands of Weir and man of the match Pat MacArthur to Hogg, who broke through the lacklustre Zebre defence to score in the left corner, with Weir adding a difficult conversion.
Weir was then just short with a drop-goal attempt on six minutes before Fijian forward Leone Nakarawa—shifted from his customary second row position to number 8 to give Josh Strauss a well-earned break—was typically menacing, winning a lineout which set up the second try.
Hooker MacArthur was again involved in the build-up as he handed off to Nakawara, who showcased his skills from his days as a Sevens player to hold the ball aloft in contact before offloading to loosehead prop Grant to go over.
With the score already at 14-0 with eight minutes gone, the game was already slipping away from Zebre which wasn’t helped by the departure of flanker Andries van Schalkwyk, although Zebre had named three back-row forwards among their replacements.
The Warriors third try again came from a lineout. This time five metres out from the Zebre tryline on the right, captain Kellock took the catch and somehow became detached from the Italian defenders before stumbling backwards and over the tryline. Weir again added the extras to make it 21-0 to the delight of the 5,950 inside Scotstoun Stadium.
With Zebre’s fragile defence struggling to hold back the fierce Warriors attack, Hogg raced away down the right for the fourth before Dunbar followed suit three minutes later.
Zebre won their first penalty on 27 minutes and kicked to touch. Stealing the lineout the Italians played the ball through the hands from left to right in the Glasgow 22 with number 8 Samuela Vunisa sending it out to lock Quintin Geldenhuys who attacked the Glasgow tryline, but the ball was short and lost forward during the grounding attempt and the Warriors were able to clear and keep Zebre off the scoreboard.
The best was yet to come for the Warriors fans with eight minutes of the first half remaining as Hogg chased a kick forward by Dunbar, smashing it 40 metres into the Zebre goal area and setting off after it unchallenged by a Zebre defender.
But he saw his chance of a hat-trick disappear as team-mate Matawalu burst through the middle to make it a foot race, both Glasgow players diving towards the ball and the Fijian got his hands on it to steal the try and with Weir’s conversion the Warriors were on course for a record win with a 40-0 lead as the heavens opened and soaked Scotstoun during the interval.
With persistent rain in the second half causing parts of the pitch to resemble giant puddles reminiscent of conditions which caused two matches to be postponed in December and January, the match was reduced to a ragged affair with neither side able to offer much.
The Warriors’ comfortable lead meant there was no need to overexert themselves despite their dominance of territory in the Zebre half and Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend saw fit to ring the changes early, as did Zebre. It took 26 minutes into the half for the next score to come as replacement tighthead prop Cross found his way under a pile of bodies. Weir capped off his birthday to make it six conversions from seven attempts with his last action before being replaced by Ruaridh Jackson.
With four minutes left, Matawalu was still menacing and broke through the Zebre 22 to score under the posts with Jackson adding the extras to compound Zebre’s misery as Treviso secured a losing bonus point in Newport to steal the only Italian place next season’s Rugby Champions Cup.
For the rampant Warriors, they have six days to get ready for the visit of three-time winners Munster as they look to reach the Pro12 grand final for the first time.
Glasgow Warriors: Stuart Hogg (Peter Murchie, 41); Sean Lamont, Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne, Niko Matawalu; Duncan Weir (Ruaridh Jackson, 68), Henry Pyrgos (Lee Jones, 61); Ryan Grant (Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 51), Pat MacArthur (Dougie Hall, ), Moray Low (Geoff Cross, 55), Tim Swinson (Rob Harley, 65), Al Kellock (captain), James Eddie, Chris Fusaro (Tyrone Holmes, 51), Leone Nakawara.
Tries: Hogg (2), Grant, Kellock, Dunbar, Matawalu (2), Cross
Cons: Weir (6/7), Jackson (1/1)
DGs: Weir 0/1
Zebre: David Odiete (Alberto Chillon, 41); Giulio Toniolatti, Giovanbattista Venditti, Gonzalo Garcia, Dion Berryman; Tommaso Iannone, Guglielmo Palazzini; Salvatore Perugini (Matias Agüero, 41), Davide Giazzon (Tommaso D’Apice, 41), Dario Chistolini (David Ryan, 37), Quintin Geldenhuys, Marco Bortolami (captain) (George Biagi, 45), Mauro Bergamasco (Emiliano Caffini, 77), Andries van Schalkwyk (Filippo Cristiano, 8) (Alberto Ferrarini, 61), Samuela Vunisa.
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)
Man of the Match: Pat MacArthur (Glasgow Warriors)