AFTER a run of four successive losses to their rivals from the other end of the M8, Edinburgh yesterday produced a win of rare drama to bring to an end their depressing run of 1872 Cup results. The outcome was, however, in doubt until deep into injury time, when Edinburgh full-back Jim Thompson picked off a Colin Gregor pass in the home side's 22 and sprinted the length of the pitch for the try which finally settled an enthralling contest.
• Glasgow centre Max Evans evades the tackle of diving Edinburgh replacement Nick de Luca in an absorbing encounter at Murrayfield which could have gone either way right up until the end Picture: Kate Chandler
If the margin of victory looks comfortable, it was no such thing. This was a mighty close shave for Edinburgh, who should have closed the match out but instead finished it holding onto a four-point lead with grim determination as Glasgow looked for the winning try, the visitors battering at the door in a frenzied final period in which at one stage they put together a 15-phase movement.
It says much for the home side's character that they weathered that final assault before seizing the chance to kill off Glasgow once and for all.
In many ways, the match was a mirror image of the first leg of the 1872 Cup, when it was Edinburgh who started strongly but were blown away in the last quarter. At Firhill, Edinburgh had started with a series of concerted drives followed by long-range penalties; this time the same tactic served the visitors admirably.
Glasgow controlled the early exchanges, Ruaridh Jackson knocking over two early penalties after powerful surges from his pack drew Edinburgh offside and over the top.
• Sean Lineen and Rob Moffat are left to share sense of what could have been after needle match
But just when they looked in danger of being swept away, Edinburgh scored a sublime try straight off the training paddock. With quick ball off the top of a lineout on Glasgow's 22, Greig Laidlaw whipped the ball out to David Blair, who popped it back inside to Tim Visser, the big Dutchman coming off his wing and breaking two tackles to go to within a couple of yards of the line before feeding Talei Netani on his right shoulder for the big Fijian flanker to go under the posts.
Man of the Match Visser again provided the cutting edge ten minutes later when Edinburgh extended their lead with a second try. This time the wing didn't start proceedings, but after a sustained passage of pressure, the ball was moved left and Ben Cairns tried to wriggle over, only to be stopped a yard short.
Laidlaw was as alert as ever and flipped the ball out to Visser, who had just enough space to hand off Gregor and squeeze over in the corner for his tenth try of the season.
Edinburgh were never completely in the ascendancy, however, and Glasgow looked particularly dangerous on the counter-attack.Max Evans and John Barclay had almost scored a breakaway try when Glasgow were leading 6-0, and the Warriors once again demonstrated their ability to punch holes in even the tightest defences when Richie Vernon sucked in two defenders and offloaded with one hand to Evans, who committed the full-back Bernardo Stortoni and passed to Rob Harley for Glasgow's opening try.
That brought Glasgow to within a point but it could have been even closer had Ruaridh Jackson kept up the kicking form which saw him land two enormous penalties early on. Instead, he missed three relatively easy kicks in a row, one from in front of the posts. Rather than a 19-12 lead, Glasgow were still playing catch-up rugby at a point behind.
The visitors were to rue those lost points when, just after the half-hour, Blair added a penalty after a tackle by Richie Gray on the stand-off was harshly adjudged to be high.
Of more significance, however, was a pair of sin-binnings just before the interval. First to go was Edinburgh second row Craig Hamilton after he was caught offside for a fourth time, making it four consecutive matches in which Rob Moffat's men have had players yellow-carded.
But rather than take advantage of their good fortune, Glasgow squandered the opportunity through a protracted rush of blood from Barclay.
Normally one of life's most considered and sensible souls, he was lucky to avoid the bin when he blatantly body-checked Visser after the wing had rag-dolled him into touch. And referee Neil Paterson had no choice but to yellow-card the flanker when he initiated an impromptu judo bout with Blair just seconds before the interval.
If Edinburgh ended the first half in front, they also bossed the early stages of the second period. Although they had precious little to show for it, one Blair penalty from two efforts moved them to 18-11 ahead and ensured that an increasingly beleaguered Glasgow side needed to score more than once to regain the lead.
When Glasgow's scrum buckled under its own posts and Blair kicked another penalty, the lead became ten points and the mountain climb became a little steeper for Sean Lineen's men.
Yet Glasgow showed at Firhill last week that they excel in the last quarter, when the game becomes more ragged and less structured, and so it proved last night. Just as Edinburgh thought they had established a degree of dominance, back came the Warriors.
Gray and Barclay were at the heart of a series of forward drives that rocked Edinburgh backwards, and it was all the home side could do to keep their line intact. And when Colin Gregor's penalty went over it brought Glasgow back to 21-14.
When Blair missed a long-range penalty and Gregor stroked over another penalty moments later to close the deficit to just four points, there was a palpable change in atmosphere.
Urged on by their supporters, Glasgow threw themselves at the Edinburgh defence, while the home side did everything they could to slow things down, taking an age to reset at the scrums and generally playing for time. It might not have been pretty, but as the final seconds of the match showed, it worked a treat.