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Glasgow survive scare to defeat Zebre and sit second in URC

Glasgow Warriors (12) 38

Tries: Bhatti, Matthews 2, Rowe, Cancelliere, Jordan Cons: Weir, Horne 3

Zebre (16) 26

Tries: Montemauri, Bravin Pens: Montemauri 3, Trulla Cons: Montemauri 2

Glasgow Warriors were made to sweat by bottom side Zebre at Scotstoun before securing a bonus-point victory in the United Rugby Championship.

First-half tries from Jamie Bhatti and Johnny Matthews were cancelled out by 13 points, including a try from Giovanni Montemauri and a penalty from Jacopo Trulla, as the Italians established a four-point half-time lead.

Kyle Rowe and Sebastian Cancelliere crossed after the break and, while Bautista Stavile Bravin’s try and a Montemauri penalty set Zebre on course for a shock victory, a second try from Matthews and a Tom Jordan score secured Glasgow's win.

Franco Smith’s side will have a home quarter-final on Saturday, with their opponents yet to be determined.

Having topped the table going into the penultimate weekend of the regular season, Glasgow had dropped to fourth after a damaging capitulation against the Emirates Lions in South Africa last time out.

Leinster's 33-7 win over Connacht means the Irish side lead Glasgow on points difference, meaning Glasgow must now hope Munster fail to beat Ulster while Bulls also fall short against Sharks to secure a top-two finish.

But this was really about Warriors rediscovering their mojo ahead of next weekend’s home quarter-final and they took barely three minutes to get up and running, Bhatti touching down to finish off a rolling line-out maul.

A scrappy 20 minutes ensued and it was Zebre, with just one win to their name all season, who had the better of the territory and possession and a brace of penalties from Montemauri bought the Italians back within a point.

Three times Glasgow thought they had scored their second try only to be denied. Cancelliere spilled a bouncing ball over the tryline, a Rowe try was ruled out by the TMO for crossing in the build-up and Sione Tuipulotu was held up over the line.

Finally, Warriors went over again when Matthews took up his trademark position at the back of the maul to dot down for his 13th URC try this season.

A monster penalty from full-back Trulla from inside his own half reduced the arrears and the full-back was instrumental as the visitors struck in the final play of the first-half to leave Scotstoun stunned.

Some brilliant footwork from Trulla opened up the Glasgow defence and the ball was eventually fed to Miontemauri to dive over in the corner. The fly-half converted his own try wonderfully from the touchline and sent his side in 16-12 up at the break.

Warriors were toiling until Tuipulotu seized on a loose ball, bounced off a defender and sent Rowe in under the posts for a try that drew a huge sigh of relief from the home support.

That relief lasted no time at all as a pass from Rory Darge in his own 22 was picked off by opposite number Bravin, who ran in untouched to wrestle the lead back for Zebre.

Glasgow finally strung some phases together and, when the ball was spun out to Cancelliere, the Argentine kept his cool to go over for the bonus-point try.

George Horne’s conversion edged the home side in front by a point, but Montemauri struck again from the tee and Warriors were staring down the barrel of a shock defeat.

It was time to revert to the tried and tested as Matthews rumbled over at the back of the rolling maul once again to touch down for his second try.

Substitute Jordan crossed in the final play to add some gloss to the scoreline, but Warriors got away with one here.

No matter their opponents in next week’s quarter-final, a repeat performance will surely bring their URC challenge to an abrupt end.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Franco Smith: "Never underestimate any team in this competition - we’ve seen it so many times. We never expected them to roll over and the fact they physically fronted up shows the quality of the competition.

"I think there was a bit of over-eagerness. We all knew by scoring a certain amount of points there was still a chance to finish first and I think they just wanted to fix it.

"Sometimes the public doesn’t realise how much they want to rectify a loss like we had against the Lions and that’s understandable. They get a little bit nervous and edgy and it’s execution errors.

"Now a new phase of the competition starts and it’s going to have a completely different look to it."

Glasgow Warriors: Rowe, Cordero, Jones, Tuipulotu, Cancelliere, Weir, Dobie, Bhatti, Matthews, Z Fagerson, Williamson, Gray, M Fagerson, Darge, Dempsey.

Replacements: G Horne for Cordero (48), Jordan for Jones (62), Thompson for Weir (48), McBeth for Bhatti (59), Hiddleston for Matthews (70), Kebble for Z Fagerson (70), Ferrie for Gray (62). Not Used: Cummings.

Zebre: Trulla, Bruno, Morisi, Mazza, Gesi, Montemauri, Fusco, Fischetti, Ribaldi, Hasa, Canali, Krumov, Ferrari, Stavile Bravin, Ruggeri.

Replacements: Paea for Mazza (55), Eden for Montemauri (66), Di Bartolomeo for Ribaldi (55), Genovese for Hasa (66), Fox-Matamua for Ruggeri (51). Not Used: Sanavia, Sisi, Jelic.