Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons: the gap has closed
IT’S not quite Scottish rugby’s “Eureka” moment but we have witnessed Glasgow’s dominance over their East Coast younger brother for so long now that it will take some significant readjustment to everyone’s mindset to accept that Edinburgh are now sitting four places above Glasgow in the Guinness Pro12 after back to back victories over their nearest and dearest.
Stand-off Phil Burleigh scored a late match-winning try as Edinburgh won 14-11 at BT Murrayfield, with the match moved from a sodden Scotstoun to the Scottish capital.
Did yesterday’s result, Alan Solomons was asked, signal a shift in the balance of power from west to east?
“I have been talking about that,” replied Edinburgh’s coach. “I felt that we have been closing the gap over the last two and a half seasons and I feel the gap has closed.”
Time alone will tell.
It was an odd match that Glasgow could, and probably should have put to bed by half-time after they dominated the opening 40 almost completely, winning over 70 per cent of possession, only to turn around at the break with a slender two-point lead.
Glasgow had a try wiped off at the end of the first half and the slippery ball contributed to several handling errors which halted the Warriors juggernaut in its tracks on the odd occasion that Edinburgh’s defenders failed to do so. Edinburgh did very little except hang on to the opposition when they were being comprehensively outplayed but it was enough and they bounced back late in the game when the opportunity arose.
The final few minutes of this match were utterly frenetic as Glasgow laid siege to Edinburgh’s line and went in search of the winning try, even tapping a penalty after the 80 was up which would surely have given them the draw.
“In the last two minutes the defence was over 30 phases which I think speaks volumes for the spirit of the side,” said Solomons. “That is what I have been talking about, this side has incredible spirit. Yes, they are good defensively, but that was some kind of spirit to do what we did at the end.”
Was Edinburgh’s coach surprised that Glasgow ignored the opportunity to take two points for the draw at the death and instead went for the victory?
“No,” replied the South African coach. “I thought they would try and win the game and obviously they went for broke.”
Glasgow went for broke but it was their attack that broke on the sharp end of Edinburgh’s new found resiliance.
Warriors coach Gregor Townsend expressed frustration after a game in which his side led 8-6 at the break but could not hold on.
“We didn’t get enough reward for our dominance of that first half,” Townsend said.
“Rugby is all about finishing and keeping the scoreboard ticking over.”
Townsend was agreeable to the change of venue, announced on New Year’s Eve, and said: “It wasn’t ideal but we have had two postponements already and after all Murrayfield is only an hour away.
“The supporters made it as close to Scotstoun as they could.”
Burleigh, in his second season at Edinburgh, is becoming an increasingly influential player and he repelled Glasgow with his kicks from hand before claiming the vital try.
“We were pressing hard on the Glasgow line so they weren’t expecting the ball to go out to the backs,” said Burleigh. “I thought the opportunity was there and went for it.”