RARELY is an 1872 Cup derby predictable, but this was as close as it gets as Edinburgh’s attacking style and Tim Visser’s finishing were hauled in by the Glasgow pack and its fighting spirit in a dramatic finish to this Boxing Day encounter.
Visser took his tally for the season to 12 tries in 14 games, ten in ten RaboDirect PRO12, with two fine scores that revealed the pace, power and ingenuity the many thousands of home fans among the record league attendance had come hoping to witness and the visiting support feared.
The Dutchman, who becomes Scottish-qualified in June, propelled the hosts from a 10-10 half-time scoreline with a brace in two minutes early in the second half to a 23-10 lead that, with Glasgow’s interminable struggle to make headway in attack, threatened to be unassailable.
However, despite losing Rory Lamont and Johnnie Beattie to injury, and playing with 14 men for ten minutes, Glasgow dominated the last quarter and turned the screw tightly enough to squeeze out two tries.
Ruaridh Jackson even had the chance to win it but could not convert a tough final conversion or a last-gasp penalty.
It was of credit to both sides that the strong winds that battered the capital had less effect on the game than one expected when they ran out, with rain adding to the difficulty in the second half.
Edinburgh came out to fireworks and the differing tactics were visible immediately, as Glasgow No8 Beattie booted the kick-off back into touch and Edinburgh wing Visser ran directly at Duncan Weir, the visiting stand-off.
Glasgow attacked much tighter than their hosts, using big forwards Richie Gray and Mike Cusack largely, to run at Greig Laidlaw and James King, and then strive to snipe back down the blindside with the alacrity of Weir and David Lemi.
However, Edinburgh dealt with that comfortably and with their back row of David Denton, Ross Rennie and Netani Talei – were hugely impressive in defence and attack – working superbly had greater pace.
Using a second wave of runners, the backs also had more depth and pace going forward and severely stretched Glasgow’s defence.
Edinburgh led from the third minute, when King made a half-break and the hosts unleashed their trademark attacking width across the Glasgow 22. It ended with Rennie, the openside flanker, diving over the line in Rob Harley’s tackle and Laidlaw converting for a swift 7-0 lead.
Samoan Lemi almost replied in kind when he chased his own chip and dived on the ball with Chris Paterson.
Irish referee Neil Paterson went to the television match official Ian Ramage for a decision and replays seemed to show the Edinburgh full-back’s hand to have applied the downward pressure, and Ramage ruled no try.
Glasgow skipper Al Kellock was left prostrate after being bowled over by young Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist, but he declined the stretcher and recovered to continue and provide a fine lead for his side.
Visser was denied a try in the tenth minute as Stuart Hogg produced the final tackle inches from the line, but Glasgow lost Ryan Grant, the former Edinburgh prop, to injury 15 minutes and then fell ten points behind and to 14 men, hooker Pat McArthur yellow-carded for foolishly stepping into King’s path after the centre had chipped him, and Laidlaw converting the resultant penalty. Weir gave Glasgow a toehold with a penalty in the 20th minute, but a charge-down of a Cusiter box-kick was followed by a penalty against prop Jon Welsh, which Laidlaw sent just wide of the posts.
Warriors’ full-back Hogg was rarely involved in the game from an attacking perspective, but we glimpsed his ability on one burst where he shrugged off Nick De Luca’s tackle inside his own half and made it to the 22 before Chris Paterson tackled him into touch.
Glasgow enjoyed more ball and territory in the second quarter and with 28 minutes gone, Kellock made the breakthrough for his team, brushing off soft tackles from Mike Blair and Kyle Traynor to crash over the line in the left-hand corner after a lineout.
Weir’s dead-straight conversion from the touchline, especially considering the wind, was a thing of beauty.
Edinburgh responded by lifting the pace again as half-time neared, Troy Nathan was lucky not to be seen when swinging a fist at De Luca, and then the visitors lost Beattie to a knee injury and Scotland wing Rory Lamont on a stretcher following an awkward clash with Rennie going for a high ball in the wind.
Edinburgh started the second half as they did the first, with three penalties inside the first five minutes leading to Laidlaw increasing the lead with one penalty from two attempts at goal.
A scrum binding penalty against Edinburgh allowed Weir to level again, but the hosts the replaced Traynor with Allan Jacobsen which seemed to have an instant impact as Edinburgh stole the next Glasgow scrum, Talei broke and Visser sped down the left touchline and crashed into the corner under tackles from Colin Shaw and Cusiter.
It was debatable whether Visser had the ball under his control, but after countless TV replays Ramage gave it the thumbs-up.
Great work at the ruck by Esteban Lozada, a half-time sub for Sean Cox, killed a swift Glasgow response and Visser then struck again with an incredible finish. The ball came straight from the lineout with the hosts’ trademark two wide passes but having beaten Hogg and Shaw for pace, Visser showed great skill in keeping his body inside the line, fractionally, under Lemi’s tackle and touching the ball into the corner, a score again confirmed by TMO Ramage.
Sean Lineen sent on Ruaridh Jackson and Moray Low and Glasgow again picked the game up and, as has become common of late, dominated the final quarter. An inch-perfect Garryowen from Jackson heaped pressure on the hosts and the Scotland stand-off then chipped through the home line to set up an easy try for sub Colin Shaw with 18 minutes remaining.
Glasgow’s attack continued to falter, but their pack dominated possession and territory and it brought reward with three minutes left.
With players lining up on the right for a crossfield kick, Cusiter kicked high down the left touchline. Edinburgh wing Lee Jones lost the ball in the wind, and Jackson was first there to touch it down.
The fly-half pulled the tricky conversion just wide and then fell just short with a last-second penalty from nearly 50 metres that came back off a post and caused a mad scramble before the whistle blew on a pulsating 23-23 draw.