CHRIS Paterson has warned Edinburgh that they must focus on securing victory first and not worry about chasing the scoreboard, as they look to overturn a ten-point deficit from the first leg of the 1872 Cup and end Glasgow’s five-year hegemony of the most famous claret jug in club rugby.
Scotland’s most capped player suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune during a two-spell, 13-year career with Edinburgh, which was heavily spiced by the annual battle for domestic supremacy with their ancient rivals from the west.
Eight years ago, before starting a two-year spell with Gloucester in the English Premiership in 2007, Paterson found himself in a similar position with the then Gunners, who were left chasing an eight-point deficit from a first-leg defeat by Warriors at Whitecraigs Rugby club when they hosted the return leg 11 days later at Murrayfield.
With Phil Godman at stand-off and Ben Cairns deployed at full-back, Paterson was, interestingly enough, detailed the right wing beat and contributed six points with his deadly boot only for a 14-9 success to leave Edinburgh four points short of the required margin of victory needed to claim the Holy Grail of Scottish domestic rugby.
It was a painful case of ‘so near, yet so far’ that has left one of the Scottish games all-time greats with the perfect standpoint to advise his former side on the best way to claim a historic victory on the hallowed turf of the national stadium.
“The one thing Edinburgh can’t afford to do is to go chasing the scoreboard. Their focus must remain absolutely on trying to win the game and the second leg alone,” advised Paterson.
He continued: “Ten points is not a decisive deficit by any manner of means and I think, as a result, the early exchanges will be cagey from both sides’ point of view but if Edinburgh take their eye of the ball and forget to play what is in front of them, then that is when focus can wander and you can come unstuck.
“Glasgow will be confident that, with the ten-point advantage behind them and the fact they got the only try of the game and also had another one chalked off, they have the capability to create more opportunities against an Edinburgh side on which the onus is firmly on to take the game to them.
“On the other side of the coin Edinburgh will rightly believe ten points is not an insurmountable deficit and they will have taken confidence by just how close they pushed Warriors at Scotstoun, where they have not lost domestically in over a year, so it is finely balanced.
“Experience tends to show that these games are pretty tight affairs and I think the second leg will follow that pattern. But Edinburgh will have to make the most of their opportunities and also try and cut down on the number of turnovers they conceded in the first leg, when they were unable to sustain pressure and position because of that.
“Another aspect that may have an impact on tomorrow’s game is which side recovers best. The first leg was a particularly bruising game and, with some of the hits that went in, it is going to take time to recover from that intensity, particularly with the quick turnaround. So it will be interesting to see just how much both sides rotate their squads.
“But there is no question that, if Edinburgh score first and get the crowd behind them, it could be very interesting indeed.”
While the home side will almost certainly be boosted by the returning predatory menace and searing pace of Tim Visser, Glasgow will be diminished by the injury sustained by Rob Harley in the first leg that will remove his almost manic tackle count from their defensive armoury.
Paterson has no doubt that the contrasting fortunes produced by these two developments could have a significant impact: “Rob Harley is a top player for Glasgow. The amount of work he gets through for them is immense and his injury is a big blow.
“On the other hand, if, as seems likely, Tim Visser does come back into it, then there is no doubt that having the cutting edge that a proven try scorer of his calibre will add is a big plus, particularly with the extra width of the pitch at BT Murrayfield.
“You just don’t know how both these developments will impact on the game.”
Looking back to 2006, the 109-times capped Scotland record points scorer admitted that a failure to translate pressure into early points ultimately cost Edinburgh dear. “Unfortunately, we didn’t make the most of a promising start and victory through a Hugo Southwell try and Duncan Hodge’s drop goal were a case of too little, too late for us,” he said.
“A lot of it will come down to who wants it the most on the night but it will also be important for both sides to retain cool heads and I think all of that could make for a great game of rugby tomorrow.
“But, whatever happens, one side will leave Murrayfield knowing it will be another year before they get the chance to right wrongs and that is a long time when you are talking about the pain of a derby defeat.”