THIS was not a vintage Glasgow Warriors performance but the fact that they scored eight tries in a bonus-point win means that head coach Franco Smith and his side will take a sense of satisfaction at a job professionally done into the three-week break they now have before playing Munster away on March 26.

Johnny Matthews was named man-of-the-match after scoring a first half hat-trick, and also setting up a JP du Preez try, which set up a victory which keeps Warriors very much in the frame for a home draw in the URC’s end of season play-offs.

They were up against a Zebre side winless during this campaign so far, but you can only beat what is put in front of you – and the Italians didn’t lack in hunger, as they demonstrated when they raced out of the blocks and into a 5-0 lead before the game was two minutes old, with scrum-half Chris Cook scuttling over from a quick tap-penalty.

Tiff Eden didn’t manage the touchline conversion and the hosts recovered some composure to strike back through hooker Matthews, who ground from the back of a line-out maul which had rumbled 20-yards to the try-line.

George Horne added the extras to edge Warriors into a two-point lead with 11 minutes played. Zebre were in no mood to roll over at this stage, however, and it took some desperate cover defence from Sam Johnson and Ollie Smith to squeeze Luca Andreani into touch just a yard short of the line.

As the half wore on, Warriors became more and more dominant, although they struggled at this stage to produce the rhythm and precision which had characterised their performances during their 10-match unbeaten streak leading into last weekend’s away loss to Lions.

Every time they looked like building up a head of steam, a handling error or careless penalty would interrupt momentum, which is exactly what happened on 20 minutes when a side-entry on halfway allowed Jacopo Trulla to edge the visitors back into the lead.

When things aren’t quite clicking, good teams know when to revert back to their basics and that’s what Warriors did here, kicking a penalty to the corner and once again rumbling the line-out maul into the scoring zone for Matthews to claim his second try of the night. That seemed to settle home nerves and they struck again on the half hour mark when Matthews latched onto a loose Zebre line-out then fed JP du Preez, with the giant South African swatted aside two tacklers on his way to the line.

Warriors finished the half battering the Zebre line, and the pressure eventually paid off when that man Matthews claimed his hat-trick in almost identical fashion to his first two scores – from the back of a line-out maul. That was his 18th try in 42 appearances for the club, which is an impressive record for a front-row forward. Even more impressive is the fact that he has now scored eight tries in three games against Zebre.

Having missed two out of his three previous conversion attempts, Horne nailed the conversion to make it 24-8 at the turnaround.

Warriors kept their foot on the gas at the start of the second half, and got their reward when Scott Cummings charged down Ratko Jelic’s box-kick clearance, Rory Darge collected the loose ball then fed Horne, and Stafford McDowall arrived like a runaway train.

Zebre were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes when replacement hooker Marco Manfredi was yellow-carded for going off his feet to kill the ball, and Warriors continued to turn the screw, scoring again when slick hands from scrum ball sent Josh McKay home unchallenged.

The game was now well and truly over as a contest, and the action fizzled out during the final quarter, although there was a couple of late flourishes from Warriors, when Sione Vailanu burst through the middle then sent Tom Gordon under the posts with eight minutes to go, and when replacement hooker Fraser Brown rumbled home in the final play to bring up the half century.