If this was supposed to be a farewell party for Glasgow’s departing coach Gregor Townsend, Edinburgh played the part of boorish gatecrashers to perfection. They have lost the 1872 Cup, but that won’t unduly worry them after unearthing this gritty performance from goodness knows where.
Edinburgh played some superb defensive rugby on the back foot in the first half when they had precious little possession; at one stage they had made just 34 passes to Glasgow’s 117.
After the break they bounced back with two good tries from Damien Hoyland and Glen Bryce but their trump card was stand-off Duncan Weir, a player who knows his way around Scotstoun after spending six seasons here.
Weir has struggled to find his feet in Edinburgh but he looked happy as a sandboy back at his old stomping ground. He kicked five penalties and two conversions, single-handedly keeping his side in contention in that tricky first half when Edinburgh were living off scraps.
In contrast Finn Russell missed one simple enough conversion and an even easier second-half penalty when the game was in the balance in an ordinary display by his standards. Stuart Hogg also missed from long range.
There were two tries for Glasgow, who had another two wiped off by the TMO, one of which went to Hogg on his 100th Glasgow appearance. And still the British Lion scored only the second best touchdown of the evening, Hoyland taking that prize for a second half effort that saw the Edinburgh winger step off his right peg and spin past three or four Glasgow defenders including the full-back.
Hoyland also performed heroics at the opposite end, doing just enough to stop Tommy Seymour from grounding the ball over the line, so the winger did his chances of a summer tour no harm at all; well worth his-man-of-the-match award.
Had Edinburgh’s defence displayed this spirit throughout the league season they would be play-off contenders and their defensive coach might have kept his job. Next season’s coach, Richard Cockerill, will be hugely heartened by this gusty display. Edinburgh had good line speed and they hunted in packs of three or four, knocking Glasgow players backwards in the contact zone. Moreover they slowed Glasgow’s phase play to a snail’s pace, by fair means or foul.
At one stage late in the first half the visitors were reduced to 13 men with Ross Ford and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne both in the sin bin and yet Edinburgh somehow still won the “power play” scoring two short-handed penalties to one Glasgow try, a late effort from skipper Jonny Gray who was sent over the line thanks to a neat “Toony flick” from fellow lock Scott Cummings.
Despite all of Edinburgh’s guts and grit they visibly tired in the final quarter and it looked like Glasgow had enough momentum to snatch this one at the death after Hogg scored their second try on 65 minutes, coming off Russell’s shoulder. Deep inside the final ten minutes Glasgow had all the possession and most of the territory with gaps beginning to appear in the red defensive wall.
Hogg’s try and Russell’s conversion had made the score 18-22 and with the wind at their backs Glasgow seemed set fair to close this match out. The home side huffed and puffed but, not for the first time this season, their execution let them down and they turned the ball over to give Edinburgh an easy out.
Edinburgh hoofed downfield into the wind, Seymour retrieved it but the Glasgow defence swarmed and won a penalty. A minute or two later the Lions’ winger received the ball five metres from his own try line with a host of red shirts hunting him down yet again.
He was bundled into touch to give Edinburgh a five metre line-out. A few plays later Bryce dived over the Glasgow line to put the icing on Edinburgh’s cake, Weir did what Weir does best and for the first time in over a decade, the smattering of Edinburgh supporters headed back east down the M8 happy.