Glasgow retained the 1872 Cup and moved into second place in the RaboDirect PRO12 league with a hard-fought victory over inter-city rivals Edinburgh in a match that almost slipped away from them.
Glasgow 37-34 Edinburgh - Glasgow win 57-50 on aggregate
The two teams traded nine tries in a game of peaks and troughs, with Glasgow fast descending and Edinburgh on the ascendancy as the final whistle blew after Tim Visser’s clinical finish ensured two bonus points that bumped Edinburgh up a place in the league. “Another five minutes and anything could have happened, that’s for sure,” said Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons.
It is more than a decade since Edinburgh, unfancied and pretty much unloved recently after a dire series of results, last beat Glasgow on their own turf, but, on the evidence of the weekend, it may be that Solomons should be listened to when he insists he is building for next season.
Glasgow’s lesson as they prepare to play Treviso in Italy this week is that, even after six PRO12 wins in a row, nothing can be taken for granted if they are to qualify for a home play-off place. “Some of our attacking was brilliant, off-loading really good,” said captain Al Kellock. “But defensively we were a mile out. We should not be shipping that many tries. We have got to be better than that.”
The match should have been played on New Year’s Day, but a winter downpour meant it kicked off four months late. The odds very much favoured the home side, with Kellock back in the second row after long term injury and Ruaridh Jackson, who will join Wasps next season, at stand-off with the up-and-coming Finn Russell on his shoulder at inside centre and Duncan Weir on the bench.
Edinburgh had flying Dutchman Visser restored to the wing and captain Greig Laidlaw, who is going to Gloucester, at scrum-half after a month’s rest decreed necessary to keep him sharp for the World Cup.
Edinburgh as a team looked anything but sharp in the first ten minutes as they leaked points like a sinking ship, with Jackson orchestrating events from stand-off in what would turn into one of his finest performances in a Glasgow jersey.
Russell banged over two penalties and full-back Peter Murchie crossed for his first try. It looked as if the sky was about to fall in on a beleaguered Edinburgh as fly-half Carl Bezuidenhout missed his first two attempts to find touch. Instead they hit back as tighthead prop Willem Nel got the ball with his back to the line and somehow turned and squirmed over to score. Laidlaw’s conversion and a subsequent penalty brought Edinburgh back to within a single point.
There was an ironic cheer as Bezuidenhout finally found a good touch near the Glasgow 22 but the crowd almost choked on it as the ball flashed wide and Andries Strauss went outside Tommy Seymour and was only prevented from scoring by a last ditch wraparound tackle by outside centre Mark Bennett.
The importance of that tackle would only emerge later, but in real time Glasgow were able to clear and go to the other end of the pitch where Jackson feinted, broke the gain line and went in for Glasgow’s second try, with Izak van der Westhuizen yellow carded for a high tackle in the build-up.
Minutes later, the South African’s absence was critical in Edinburgh deciding to go for the corner instead of taking three points when a penalty was awarded inside the Edinburgh 22. The catch and maul allowed Chris Cusiter to feed out to the left and nobody could stop Bennett as he came in hard and fast at an angle for his team’s third try.
It was 23-13 at half-time and, within minutes of the restart, Edinburgh blindside Mike Coman was sin-binned for lying over the ball once too often just metres from his own line. Glasgow thought they had scored from the lineout and maul, with Chris Fusaro seeming to touch down, but the referee wasn’t sure and disallowed it.
It didn’t matter though because, with Edinburgh still a man down, Murchie took the ball at speed and went through for his second, and the bonus point, try. Russell’s conversion made it a 17 point margin on the scoreboard.
Glasgow relaxed a little at this point, thinking the job was done, and Edinburgh might well have folded as they went to and fro across the pitch, retaining possession and slowly gaining territory until outside centre Matt Scott broke away and barged his way over. The ever reliable boot of Laidlaw added the extras.
A phalanx of replacements were thrown into the action as the game went into the final quarter. Moray Low collected a loose ball and galloped over the line but there had been forward movement. No such problem for Rob Harley as he claimed the fifth try and Russell’s conversion restored the 17 point cushion.
Once again Edinburgh refused to fold. In the final few minutes replacement flanker Tomas Leonardi got a try from a pile-up on the line, and then Visser found space to run for virtually the first time in the match and showed what Edinburgh had been lacking as he powered in at the corner.
Scorers: Glasgow Tries: Murchie 2, Bennett, Jackson, Harley. Cons: Russell 3. Pens: Russell 2. Edinburgh Tries: Nel, Scott, Leonardi, Visser. Cons: Laidlaw 4. Pens: Laidlaw 2
Glasgow: P Murchie; S Maitland, M Bennett, F Russell, T Seymour; R Jackson, C Cusiter; R Grant, D Hall, J Welsh, J Gray, A Kellock (capt), R Harley, C Fusaro, J Strauss. Subs: P MacArthur (for Hall 50), J Yanuyanutawa (for Grant 75), M Low (for Welsh 60), L Nakarawa (for Kellock 60), R Wilson (for Fusaro 60), N Matawalu (for Cusiter 60), D Weir (for Jackson 75), R Vernon (for Bennett 72).
Edinburgh: J Cuthbert; T Brown, M Scott, A Strauss, T Visser; C Bezuidenhout, G Laidlaw (capt); A Dickinson, R Ford, W Nel, G Gilchrist, I van der Westhuizen, M Coman, C Du Preez, D Denton. Subs: J Hilterbrand (for Ford 75), W Blaauw (for Dickinson 75), S Berghan, B Toolis (for Coman 75), T Leonardi (for van der Westhuizen 50), G Hart, P Francis, S Beard (for Strauss 50).