WE'VE seen this horror movie many times before, although the final scene has rarely been quite so gruesome.  

Despite being guilty of several lapses in discipline and in dangerous areas of the park and at crucial moments throughout the match, Glasgow Warriors had managed to get themselves into a winning position against Benetton at Stadio Monigo with just a minute left to play on Saturday afternoon – but hopes of a happy ending for Danny Wilson’s side evaporated into thin air with three needless penalties conceded in quick succession. 

Warriors went from being in control of the ball deep inside their opponents’ 22, to watch helplessly as Italian matinée idol Leonardo Marin stepped forward and coolly kicked the points which secured a 19-18 injury time win for the hosts.  

This was the third instalment in a depressing 2021 Treviso-based trilogy for Scottish rugby. Back in April, Warriors suffered an appalling 46-19 mauling at the Stadio Monigo, and then in early October it was Edinburgh who were punished at the hands of Marin when the teenager kicked an injury time drop-goal to secure a 28-27 victory for his team. It is safe to say that nobody in these parts will be splashing out on this particular boxset. 

For veteran back-five forward Rob Harley, Saturday’s match needs to be a line in the sand moment. The season is still young, so qualification to the United Rugby Championship play-offs and the knock-out stages of the European Champions Cup are both still in play, so long as the issues raised by Saturday’s performance are properly addressed – with the tightening up of discipline top of the agenda. 

“It’s just massive disappointment,” said Harley, straight after the match. “There was a lot of effort and we’ve come close to getting a huge away win, but our discipline let us down and we’re going home with a loss instead. The margins are thin.   

“We are talking about the whole squad with that,” he continued. “The last couple of minutes was emblematic of what we’ve done through the game, with their tries coming from us putting pressure on ourselves, from not exiting well, from cheap offsides which have put us back defending our own line again.   

“A lot of credit to Benetton for being clinical and taking their chances, but the number of times we gave away penalties and invited them into our 22 and onto our goal-line to attack has cost us in the end.  

“I think that’s something there needs to be an emphasis on, and we need to make shifts as a squad, so that we read the referee but also make sure that we are half a foot behind the ruck.” 

Warriors conceded 12 penalties throughout the 80 minutes which is only two more than Benetton, and over the course of the season so far they have conceded 59 penalties which is not as many as Edinburgh, Zebre, Cardiff Blues or the Dragons. So, they are not outliers on the discipline front, but the timing and areas of the park where these penalties are being conceded has been really costly to Danny Wilson’s side.  

“It is things like making a huge effort to roll away from contact, and I gave away a penalty in this game for a high tackle, which is just down to sloppy technique,” added Harley. “So, it’s about improving technique and having that ethos where we are giving ourselves that margin for error and showing referees that we are working to stay legal. We need to demand better. We don’t want to give referees these decisions to make.”  

Next Saturday’s home match against a Dragons side who have not tasted victory since the start of October presents a golden opportunity to build some momentum ahead of a tough seven-match stretch which could make or break the team’s season.   

Warriors kick off their Champions Cup campaign away to La Rochelle the following Sunday, then welcome home two old boys in Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray when Exeter Chiefs visit Scotstoun six days later, and then play back-to-back 1872 Cup matches against Edinburgh on 27th December and 2nd January.  

They then play Ospreys at home in the United Rugby Championship, before resuming their European campaign with return fixtures against Exeter and La Rochelle.  

“We’ve got a chance next week to remedy all of these mistakes straight away,” concluded Harley. “From the moment we touch down in Scotland and get home, all our focus is going to be on the Dragons next Saturday night. It is a huge week for us.”  

Warriors fell behind to a Rhyno Smith try inside 35 seconds on Saturday but battled back to take a 15-13 lead into the break thanks to tries from No8 Jack Dempsey and openside-flanker Rory Darge, with Ross Thompson kicking a conversion and a penalty. 

A second Thompson penalty opened up a five-point lead at the start of the second half, but Warriors couldn’t kick-on from there, and Marin made sure the hosts had the final say.