Moments of individual brilliance are often viewed as the deciding factor in rugby matches, but Rob Harley believes that, at least when it comes to games between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the real key to success is superior brutality.
The longest-serving member of the Warriors squad, Harley can all too readily recall a time when his team was toiling towards the bottom of what is now the Pro14. But even when Glasgow were on a poor run of form, they were able to raise their game in the 1872 Cup – as they did, for example, at the end of 2010. That match may be best remembered in general for the sending-off of Chris Fusaro and Edinburgh’s Scott MacLeod for fighting, but for Harley, the 30-18 win was all about the Warriors’ merciless approach at the breakdown and epitomised the importance of that factor.
“I was involved in the game when Chris was sent off – I think that emphasised the physicality of the game,” he said. “It’s often won by the team that’s willing to be really aggressive and brutal in the clearout. I think you’ve seen that in the last few years, you win the contact area and the collisions in midfield. If you do that and get faster ball, it goes a long way towards winning.”
Another factor which the forward believes will benefit his team is the venue: tomorrow’s match will be the first time in five years that the opening fixture in the 1872 Cup has been played at Scotstoun. Granted, Glasgow’s home ground has not exactly been a fortress this season – in fact, they have lost their last two games there, to Leinster in the Pro14 and to La Rochelle in the Champions Cup, with the latter defeat having been particularly demoralising, because they did more than enough to win. But the rivalry with Edinburgh is far more keenly felt, which means the crowd is far more vociferous, and that, in turn, inspires the players according to Harley.
“I think it does make a difference – you want to get out in front of the home fans and have that edge behind us,” he continued. “Hopefully, that sets us up for a win this week.
“We recognise that we haven’t played to our potential this year. But there’s not a panic, because we know we have the ability in the squad and we are creating chances. It’s little fixes, and hopefully we have the potential to go on a run of games. It’s just about getting into that place and hopefully sometime soon we will.
“It does mean a bit more when it’s Glasgow v Edinburgh. The win tastes a little bit sweeter, the loss hurts a little bit more. And as well as that it’s around Christmas time, so you’re going back home to your family and you want to be going back in a good mood coming off a win rather than sulking because you’ve lost. For the rivalry and the time of year, it’s got that importance.”