Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors has an extra level of significance as bravery of hooker is hailed

Edinburgh are facing a straight shoot-out with Glasgow Warriors for a place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup after results over the weekend crystallised the top eight places in the United Rugby Championship.

Dave Cherry grimaces as he receives treatment on his injured arm during Edinburgh's URC match against Ulster.  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Dave Cherry grimaces as he receives treatment on his injured arm during Edinburgh's URC match against Ulster. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The two Scottish clubs are locked together on 50 points in joint seventh place and are both through to the URC play-offs. They meet each other at Murrayfield on May 21 in their final league match which will determine which side qualifies for the elite European tournament.

The match, which is also the second leg of the inter-city 1872 Cup, will decide the winners of the Scottish-Italian Shield, one of the four regional pools within the URC.

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Eight teams from the URC will go through to the Champions Cup - the four pool winners and the next four highest-ranked clubs in the final league table.

No Welsh teams made the top eight but they will still supply a club to next season’s Champions Cup via the Welsh Shield, meaning either Edinburgh or Glasgow look set to miss out despite finishing above Scarlets, Ospreys, Cardiff and Dragons. The only realistic way both Scottish clubs can qualify for the Champions Cup is if the losing side at Murrayfield on May 21 goes on to win this season’s Challenge Cup.

It sets things up nicely for the derby and Mike Blair is anticipating a blockbuster.

“The big one to play for is obviously the Heineken Cup stuff,” said the Edinburgh coach after the 16-10 defeat by Ulster in which the hosts lost their unbeaten home record but gained a bonus point which sealed their play-off place.

“I reckon we can get an incredible crowd. It is the last regular game of the season and there is so much to play for. It will be brilliant to see a packed out Murrayfield.”

Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally in crutches at the end of the game as he speaks to coach Mike Blair. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

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Edinburgh have received plaudits for their attacking rugby this season, and rightly so, but there was a gritty determination about their second-half performance against Ulster.

No-one demonstrated that more than Dave Cherry, the hooker who came on early when Stuart McInally hobbled off and played the remainder of the game despite suffering an arm injury of his own.

“Dave Cherry was outstanding,” said Blair. “I can't believe he stayed on because we thought he had broken his arm.

“I thought that epitomised what we are trying to create at the club, with guys doing everything for the jersey.”

Cherry said he was unable to grip the ball properly.

“I was struggling at the end and was told to just stand on the wing but the ball kept coming to me, unfortunately,” said the hooker. “The throwing went alright. I couldn't grip or anything. But I love playing for Edinburgh so I'll put my body on the line week in, week out.”

Injuries to his two first-choice hookers will be a cause for concern for Blair who also saw centre James Lang limp off with a knee problem.

Edinburgh were guilty of squandering chances in the first half and Ulster made them pay with a converted try from winger Rob Baloucoune and three penalties from Nathan Doak.

It took a moment of inspiration from Mark Bennett to unlock the visitors' defence, the centre chipping through and collecting for a try which Emiliano Boffelli converted to seal the losing bonus point.

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