Guinness PRO12: Glasgow Warriors go top with win over Zebre
Record try-scorer DTH van der Merwe bags a brace as Scots run in four tries against bottom club to leapfrog Munster
Glasgow Warriors returned to the top of the Guinness PRO12 table as a brace from DTH van der Merwe helped them to a 26-5 win over Zebre Rugby.
All four Warriors tries came in the opening 36 minutes before persistent rain joined a strong southerly breeze in the west of Glasgow, which turned the nature of the match into a disjointed scrum-fest.
It was a very good first half. Obviously we’re a bit frustrated with the second half, but fair play to Zebre – they’re threw everything at us for the full 80 minutes – and it was good to keep them to the one try, especially when we were down to 12 men for a wee while.
Warriors flanker Chris Fusaro reflects on the win
Despite putting 54 points past Zebre in their last two meetings, the Warriors failed to score a single point in the final 40 with the Italians grabbing a consolation try at the end of the third quarter.
By that time though, the damage had already been done and any both sides seemingly going through the motions with the Scots assured of a bonus-point win to take them back to the summit of the PRO12.
Van der Merwe ran in the first try after four minutes when good work from scrum-half Niko Matawalu sent tighthead prop Rossouw de Klerk running through the Zebre defence before playing a pass inside to the Canadian international for his 40th Warriors try.
Zebre’s task was made tougher in the first half through repeated indiscipline, with scrum-half Alberto Chillon the first of three players to see yellow.
Chillon was penalised for unnecessary stamping at the breakdown just a minute before landing his foot into the back of Warriors flanker Chris Fusaro in a bid to clear him away from a ruck.
Under the nose of the referee, Ian Davies wasted little time in sending Chillon to the sin bin for his actions on 17 minutes.
With the Warriors targeting a bonus-point win, kickable penalties were turned down to kick for touch, and the tactic paid off when Fusaro capped his return from an ankle injury to score the home side’s second try on 20 minutes with Peter Horne adding the conversion with his final contribution of the piece before immediately going off for a head injury assessment, which he failed.
After hooker Pat MacArthur opened his Warriors account in the win over the Ospreys two weeks earlier, his rival Kevin Bryce achieved the same feat as he ran a great support line and showed his strength to notch up a third try after Niko Matawalu showcased his livewire credentials from scrum-half. Versatile Canadian back Connor braid added the conversion.
The Italians finished the first half down to 13 men as Davies took a dim view of repeated infringements with centre Matteo Pratichetti yellow carded for deliberately slowing the ball down metres from the visitors’ tryline before captain Mauro Bergamasco was binned just three minutes later for trying to lift a Warriors player’s legs during a driving maul.
With larger holes in the Zebre defence, the Warriors wrapped up the try-scoring bonus point a minute later when the ball was sent out wide through Peter Murchie and Lee Jones involved in the build-up before Matawalu’s final pass wide to van der Merwe, who managed to evade challenges from Giulio Toniolatti and Mirco Bergamasco to dive over in the left corner for his second of the night and sixth in the PRO12 this season.
With the game seemingly won, Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend rang the changes early in the second half, not helped by a number of injuries with captain Al Kellock the fourth Warrior to withdraw, with a hand problem on 47 minutes.
The Warriors had already lost back-row forward Adam Ashe before the contest following a flare up of a neck problem, and it didn’t get much better for Townsend with tighthead prop Rossouw de Klerk failing to return for the second 40.
Really happy with the first half, and good to get the bonus point. We just had to scrap the second half. A bit of ill-discipline – getting the two yellow cards didn’t help – then the weather coming in made it a bit tighter; a lot of pick and gos.
Warriors flanker Chris Fusaro
Mirco Bergamasco missed a kick at goal six minutes after the restart, but despite the conditions and trailing 26-0, Zebre finally got on the scoreboard just before the hour mark with a well-taken try for winger Dion Berryman who chased a neat kick through from full-back Toniolatti, which caught the Warriors defence flat-footed, but Bergamasco missed the conversion.
The Warriors can count themselves lucky that a lack of discipline didn’t come back to haunt them when replacement full-back Glenn Bryce was on the field barely a minute before being yellow carded.
Townsend’s side was briefly down to 12 men when replacement back-row forward Will Bordill was also binned on 74 minutes after landing a punch in the ribs of Mauro Bergamasco during a scrum.
His departure came moments after Scotland international Lamont left the field on a gurney after taking a whack on his knee, but the numerical disadvantage wasn’t enough to cause problems as the clock agonisingly ticked along to 80 minutes.
Glasgow Warriors: Peter Murchie; Lee Jones, Sean Lamont, Connor Braid, DTH van der Merwe; Peter Horne, Niko Matawalu; Ryan Grant, Kevin Bryce, Rossouw de Klerk, James Eddie, Al Kellock (captain), Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, Josh Strauss.
Replacements: Dougie Hall (for Kevin Bryce, 48), Alex Allan (for Grant, 41), Zander Fagerson (for de Klerk, 41), Tommy Spinks (for Kellock, 47), Will Bordill (for Fusaro, 56); Ali Price (for Matawalu, 74), Richie Vernon (for Horne, 22), Glenn Bryce (for Murchie, 62).
Tries: van der Merwe (2), Fusaro, Kevin Bryce
Cons: Horne (2), Braid
Yellow cards: Glenn Bryce (64), Bordill (74)
Zebre: Giulio Toniolatti; Dion Berryman, Mirco Bergamasco, Matteo Pratichetti, David Odiete; Edoardo Padovani, Alberto Chillon; Andrea De Marchi, Oliviero Fabiani, Lorenzo Romano, Quintin Geldenhuys, Andrei Mahu, Ruben Riccioli, Mauro Bergamasco (captain), Valerio Bernabò.
Replacements: Luciano Leibson (for Fabiani, 69), Andrea Lovotti (for de Marchi, 48), Luca Redolfini (for Romano, 41), Filippo Gerosa (for Mahu, 56), Renato Giammarioli (for Geldenhuys, 60); Brendon Leonard (for Chillon, 41), Luciano Orquera (for Padovani, 60), Gonzalo Garcia (for Mirco Bergamasco, 64).
Yellow cards: Chillon (17), Pratichetti (33), Mauro Bergamasco (36)
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)
Man of the Match: Niko Matawalu (Glasgow Warriors)