DESPITE the final score, this 1872 Cup victory by Glasgow was as emphatic as any witnessed in the years of inter-city rivalry.
Edinburgh; Tries - Grant, Visser; Cons - Laidlaw (2); Pens - Laidlaw
Glasgow; Tries - Maitland, Jackson, Pyrgos; Pens - Horne (2)
• Glasgow win 44-31 on aggregate
Referee: N Paterson
The cup was launched in Glasgow with an Edinburgh win and celebrated its 140-year history in Edinburgh at the weekend with a win by Glasgow. We have not seen every meeting, naturally, but one cannot recall when Glasgow, in their pro guise at least, last combined forward dominance with such attacking elan than they did at Murrayfield on Saturday evening.
The big surprise for an 11,000-plus crowd – and one nagging disappointment for the Glasgow squad – was how they squandered a handful of opportunities manufactured by aggressive, precise and momentum-building attacks, so failing to score four tries and grasp all five league points on offer, and leave themselves vulnerable to a late Edinburgh fight-back.
The home side were better than in the first leg but the Warriors were also better and, while there were shades of luck epitomised by Ruaridh Jackson’s interception try, the biting wind was in the Glasgow sails.
In fact, to see Jackson orchestrating the game with more right decisions than wrong, bringing backs onto the ball at pace and revealing fine speed of his own over 50 metres to ensure no Edinburgh player laid a hand on him en route to the try-line, was pleasing for Scottish rugby in itself. But across the pitch there were encouraging signs at the end of a rollercoaster 2012 with more jolting bumps along the ground than high spots.
While Al Kellock provided his customary pugnacious lead, Rob Harley was again a colossus, and there was little to separate him from back-row colleagues Ryan Wilson – voted man of the match – and Josh Strauss, the South African blindside at the heart of Glasgow’s “go-forward” platform-building and stern defence.
The home back row of Roddy Grant, Netani Talei and David Denton, and arguably the hosts’ best player, lock Grant Gilchrist, will have come off wondering how such a big shift by themselves yielded so little, but the reason was that their front five were well beaten.
Allan Jacobsen was given a torrid time by Moray Low in the scrum, the retired Scotland prop feeling the determination of a Scotland youngster seeking a way back into the Test reckoning. Internationalists Andy Titterrell and Geoff Cross could not mask the loss of injured duo Ross Ford and Willem Nel, against Ryan Grant and Dougie Hall and were too regularly driven off scrum ball.
The first sign of Glasgow’s burgeoning attack came in the sixth minute when Sean Maitland scored the opening try, swiftly dousing early enterprise by Edinburgh and fly-half Piers Francis. Scottish referee Neil Paterson had got the lineout call wrong – it should have been Edinburgh’s – but how the Warriors took advantage, Maitland finishing off a flowing move by swatting aside Matt Scott.
Discipline lapses by Glasgow handed Edinburgh chances, Laidlaw converting one from two shots at goal, but even with that, a temporary loss of Harley for stitches and a yellow card for Peter Horne, for tackling Scott early, Glasgow finished the half 16-3 up with Jackson’s runaway score on 29 minutes and two Horne penalties.
It should have been more but referee Paterson controversially ruled out a Hall try, penalising Jackson for driving into a defender when it seemed that the stand-off was merely clearing out at a ruck.
Only a fine last-ditch tackle by Denton denied DTH van der Merwe at the start of the second half, and Sean Lamont squandered a certain try by failing to find Jackson or Van der Merwe after exploding into the home 22, but scrum-half Henry Pyrgos then exploited the sin-binning of Jacobsen – for a ruck infringement close to the line – by darting off the scrum and under Denton’s tackle to score. And, despite Horne’s conversion misses, at 21-3 it seemed to be game over.
But Edinburgh finally found reward for their efforts, Scott superbly chasing and catching a Laidlaw high ball and off-loading to Grant who battered over the line with 22 minutes remaining, and after Hogg dropped the ball over the line, after superb running by DTH van der Merwe, Tim Visser set up an exciting finish by diving over. Laidlaw again converted to cut the deficit to five points, but Glasgow’s grip on the 1872 Cup could not be released.
Edinburgh: Tonks; Fife, Scott, King (Atiga 55 min), Visser; Francis (Rees 55 min), Laidlaw; Jacobsen (Hislop 53 min), Titterell (Lawrie 68 min) Cross (Niven 68 min), Gilchrist (Parker 68 min), Cox, Denton, Grant, Netani (Basilaia 63 min).
Glasgow: Hogg; Maitland, Lamont (Matawalu 75 min), Horne (Morrison 60 min), Van der Merwe; Jackson (Weir 60 min), Pyrgos; Grant (Reid 67 min), Hall (MacArthur 55 min), Low (Araroz 75 min), Ryder (Swinson 50 min), Kellock, Strauss (Eddie 55 min), Harley, Wilson.