GREIG Laidlaw revelled in a return to scrum half but the captain’s stirring show was not enough to prevent Edinburgh Rugby slipping to a 23-14 defeat by Glasgow at Scotstoun last night.
Scorers: Glasgow: Tries: Van der Merwe (2), Harley, Conversion: Horne. Penalties: Weir (2). Edinburgh: Try: Francis. Penalties: Laidlaw (2)
However, despite the scoreline there was a distinct feeling of relief in the Capital camp at the way they got their act together to ensure next Saturday’s return leg of the 1872 Cup is far from a formality.
With half an hour of pulsating action gone Edinburgh were trailing by three tries and there might even have been some travelling fans who were wishing the Mayans’ prediction had been correct. Lifted by Laidlaw behind a feisty scrummage, though, the Capital men not only salvaged pride in front of a crowd of exactly 6000 but denied their rivals the four-try Rabo Direct Pro 12 bonus point.
Edinburgh could, though, take the field next week without Ross Ford. Lions Hooker Ford was taken off with a shoulder injury – just as he was against Ospreys last month.
Edinburgh, whose try came from Piers Francis, were first to show with Laidlaw looking sharp to charge down a Horne clearance and force a line-out 15 metres from the Glasgow try zone.
Momentarily repelled, Edinburgh came again with Tim Visser making a half-break only for a scoring pass from Greig Tonks to Ford to be blocked. Ford required treatment and when the subsequent scrum collapsed, Glasgow escaped with a penalty.
It was, then, against the run of play that Glasgow won a line-out with a throw over the top and Peter Murchie got up in the attack to send DTH Van der Merwe in a the corner after a 20-metre dash with Edinburgh caught cold.
The eighth-minute try from first-phase possession was the only time Glasgow had been out of their half and Peter Horne missed the conversion.
Three times Glasgow had brought winger Sean Maitland in as first receiver and for a couple of minutes Glasgow threatened to cut loose through midfield.
Worse was to follow for Edinburgh when Ford retired hurt after 12 minutes with a shoulder problem to be replaced by Andy Titterrell.
Before the new hooker could settle, though, poor handling in midfield put Edinburgh on the back foot as Sean Lamont exploited the mistake and, showing utter ruthlessness, Glasgow set up a ruck five metres out from which Nikola Matawalu fed Robert Harley for an easy unconverted try after 20 minutes.
Clearly rattled Edinburgh re-started by kicking the ball out on the full to concede a scrum on halfway as Sean Cox came on for Izak van der Westhuizen (ankle injury).
By now rampant when Glasgow surged again Matawalu just failed to gather for what would have been a certain touchdown and only a brilliant retreat tackle by Laidlaw in stripping the ball prevented Maitland from crossing.
A blindside break by Matawala had Edinburgh stretched and the same player was instrumental in creating try No. 3 with a chip over the defence which saw Van der Merwe run on to score; all three tries had come in the same sport and with his range secure Horne landed the conversion for 17-0 after half an hour.
A thumping tackle by Matt Scott was a rare sign of Edinburgh resistance and it took a penalty into the corner to give them a rare look at the home line. Eventually Edinburgh had to settle for a penalty by Laidlaw to get off the mark after 32 minutes.
It was the only way Edinburgh, operating off slow possession, looked like getting on the board, a lack of ideas summed up by Piers Francis’s weak chip into welcoming Glasgow arms a few minutes later.
17-3 adrift at half time, Edinburgh carried on where they left off with a penalty by Laidlaw gained through their powerful scrummage but immediately Visser took his eye off the re-start and knocked on to gift possession.
Shrugging aside the carelessness, Edinburgh struck back when King’s well-timed mis-pass after a David Denton burst found Scott who made ground before feeding the supporting Francis for his first try in club colours. Laidlaw missed the conversion but Edinburgh were back in business at 11-17.
On the heavy pitch Edinburgh were finally finding gaps as Glasgow made a double half back substitution with Henry Pyrgos and Duncan Weir coming on.
Almost immediately Weir fell short with a speculative penalty and it was the emergence of Dougie Hall from the bench that seemed to lift Glasgow more.
The Edinburgh tackles were flying in fast and they had to as Weir set up another promising field position only for play to be recalled allowing the international stand off to bolster the home lead to 20-11 with a 63rd-minute straight-on penalty.
Within a couple of minutes Laidlaw had struck back with his third penalty after slick handling by Tonks, Cox, Visser and Scott.
The pattern continued with Weir slotting for Glasgow and there was an away let-off when Weir and Van der Merwe combined up the touchline causing Tonks to scramble before Laidlaw got back to cover.
The scrum went to Glasgow and their siege was only interrupted by a brawl involved more than half the forwards.
Pressure was ultimately relieved by a scrum penalty but there was no way back for brave Edinburgh and Glasgow captain Al Kellock was a deserving man of the match.
Glasgow: Murchie, Maitland, S Lamont, Horne, Van der Merwe, Jackson, Matawalu, Grant, McArthur, Low, Swinson, Kellock (capt), Harley, Wilson, Fusaro. Subs: Hall, Reid, Araoz, Gray, Eddie, Pyrgos, Weir, Hogg.
Edinburgh: Tonks, Jones, Scott, King, T Visser, Francis, Laidlaw, captain, Yapp, Nel, Gilchrist, Van der Westhuizen, Denton,McInaly, Grant. Subs: Titterrell, Hislop, Cross, Cox, Talei, Rees, Atiga, Fife.
Referee: J Garces (Fra).