1872 Cup: Bragging rights on line for Edinburgh and Glasgow

It was one of the more eye-catching results of this topsy-turvy season although it wasn't so much the 18-17 final score last December that caused the double take. Victors Edinburgh were under new management, with a new sense of purpose and a new sense of relief for the long-suffering fans. The capital club had won the 1872 Cup in two of the previous three years and had given Gregor Townsend a 29-18 kick in the pants as his leaving present in his final game at Scotstoun.

Chris Dean  in training for next weekends 11872 Cup decider, right  scored the late, late winner in the Murrayfield opener. Photographs: Gary Hutchison/SNS
Chris Dean  in training for next weekends 11872 Cup decider, right  scored the late, late winner in the Murrayfield opener. Photographs: Gary Hutchison/SNS

But Edinburgh hadn’t just beaten Glasgow, the flakiest flakes outside of a Cadbury’s advert had beaten the Warriors after conceding a second-minute try and picking up a red card for Simon Berghan four minutes later; the sort of double whammy that would persuade Conor McGregor to stay on his knees.

It proved a watershed moment for Edinburgh who grew arms and legs thereafter and who may have qualified for their first play-offs by the time you read this.

Sign up to our Rugby Union newsletter

“I think that game, with 14 guys for most of it, really showed just how much belief there is in our team and that will to win that, at times, hasn’t been there in the past,” concedes centre Chris Dean, who scored the dramatic winner in the final minute of the match.

“Everyone in the crowd when that red card arrived said, ‘oh, oh, here we go’ with them having scored so early on as well. I think it [the win] did create a belief in ourselves, whatever cards we are dealt, we will deal with it and fight through it and we have done that in a lot of games.

“Definitely we have improved leaps and bounds. We have come from here to here but the top teams are just that bit ahead of us and that is the real hard bit.”

Dean has a point. Edinburgh are far from the finished article but they are at least at last holding their own amongst the middleweights of the league rather than getting pummelled every weekend and reaching for the towel.

The new-look Edinburgh have beaten both Munster and Leinster this season at home but those twin wins occured in the Six Nations’ window when all the Celtic teams lose a slew of players. The club is not yet ready to go toe-to-toe with the heavyweights in this league when everyone is fully armed.

Richard Cockerill has just extended his stay to 2021 but when he first arrived he shouted from the rooftops that he would pick on form and Dean’s likely inclusion next weekend suggests that the coach has been true to his word. If Dean’s elementary errors have had fans venting their frustration in past seasons, we sometimes forget that he only made the switch from his youth position in the middle of the back row at the age of 20. Moreover he insists that he received no specific coaching to help him make the switch until last season; a damning indictment of what has gone before.

“I’d say playing rugby at 12 has been a little bit easier [than 13],” says Dean, “you have guys run at you rather than try to run around you. But the experience has been brilliant.

“Having gone and played 13 and a bit of 12 and on the wing a bit I am really starting to understand that side of the pitch and try to create a role for myself.”

Deans makes the point that, in the past, Edinburgh players have known the team for the weekend long before the coach announced it. With the added competition in the squad and a coach who is willing to drop big names to the bench – or even the stand – a feeling of uncertainty prevails, a key driver in elite sport.

Edinburgh may have an edge in the front row where Simon Berghan has been the stand-out but, in the absence of Hamish Watson, Glasgow may boss the breakdown. Glasgow boast most of the trump cards in the backs but Edinburgh still have threats.

Blair Kinghorn is applying fire to Stuart Hogg’s feet, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne has the ability to give any of the Glasgow nines a hurry up and Duhan van der Merwe could go head-to-head with his fellow South African DTH van der Merwe, a boon for the spectators if a curse for the commentators.

Meanwhile Dean will probably find himself starting against Peter Horne or Alex Dunbar, two international centres who will test the newbie in very different ways but, as he explains, all expectations go out the window in the inter-city match.

“I think Glasgow is a funny one because you’ve got a rivalry there,” says Deans. “Obviously they have effectively got the Scotland team playing for them if that’s the side they pick. But you see it differently because it’s the Edinburgh-Glasgow rivalry. You approach it differently. You forget who you are playing and more concentrate on yourself. That’s the main thing for us.

“They have got fantastic players, and we all know that, but we just need to focus on the game and our confidence to go in and give them a good game. We did it at the end of last season on the back of some not-so-great rugby throughout the whole season and a tough time.

“I don’t see why we can’t take the confidence that we have built up this season and give it our best shot, go out and try and win that game.”