You’ll have gotten up today and sat down at your breakfast table, poured some juice, spread over some slightly charred toast and opened your paper. Looked at the sports section. You’ll see that Edinburgh drew with Glasgow at home 23-23. You’ll see that the attendance was 13,240. You’ll smile and, like Scott Johnson, you’ll think, “Wow! Scottish rugby looks like it’s going well.”
For several reasons you would be right. Yesterday’s match showcased many things and a lot of them were unavoidably positive. There were plenty of tries; there were some crunching hits; there were moments where the advantaged oscillated between the two combatant sides; there were moments of heart-in-mouth action.
Of course there was a section today that also woke up and sat down at the breakfast table, only this section where tucking into recovery ‘shakes rather than juice and running over the game in their heads rather than reading the rags to see their own analysis writ large. “How did our style not triumph?” the players will be thinking.
It certainly looked like Edinburgh had the style and guile to triumph early on in this match. After 3 minutes of play Edinburgh had chucked in several offloads and Glasgow’s concertina defence looked to be bested. Visser was not used as a decoy and Talei, who was a dynamic force throughout the game, was sent into contact alongside the Dutchman to restrict Glasgow’s cover. Balls were worked out and as Talei surged once more he left enough room for Ross Rennie to step over for the first score from close range. Laidlaw kicked the simple conversion. 7-0.
The game looked like it was set out for Edinburgh’s positive tactics careening against Glasgow’s stodgy, sponge-like negative tactics. Of course that would mean that logic would have been prevalent and that the game followed some kind of script. This game was one devoid of logic and unscripted.
Mere minutes after the opening score David Lemi was flung a pass slightly too deep on his wing, 10m out, and in front of three defenders. Options may have burst into his head. He could have pulled out, sevens style. He could have blitzed into contact. He could have returned the ball to sender. He did, however, pull out an unexpected fourth option that showed exactly what Glasgow fans can expect from Lemi should he be in the mood. He chipped over the bulwark and gambled on a chase. The ball bounced, looking to return on an angle that favoured Lemi. He dived whilst Paterson formed hands around the ball. Someone put it down and the TMO was called.
It was decided that this was not a try but the threat was there and the game looked like it may actually whirl into a number of incidents for both teams. A stalemate of opportunity.
Pat MacArthur was yellow carded for a juvenile and overt block following a chip, and was sent to the bin. Laidlaw kicked a penalty during MacArthur’s dead time, but so did Weir and scrum penalties made little difference. No advantage was enjoyed.
In fact as Edinburgh showed their range of runners and their repertoire of offloads Glasgow sucked it up, as expected, and waited for the set-piece to show their hand. With Jacobsen not starting the scrum looked to favour Glasgow. At the lineout Kellock and Gray were picking off wayward throws from Ford at will. With the resulting balls Chris Cusiter was shooting around the fringes, running hard and trying to make the space that Weir was struggling to create with his one-dimensional runners.
So Glasgow had to make a breakthrough somehow without those feckless runners. That chip worked, didn’t it? So they chipped again. This time the ball bounced at the cross-section of the 5m lines at Edinburgh’s line and Hogg hauled Paterson into touched before picking him up and asking him if he was ‘OK’ –a moment dripping with saccharine symbolism – and the Warriors looked to take advantage. From the lineout a drive was repelled, but the ball sat in front of Kellock who picked up, ambled forward past an out of sorts Blair, and plopped over for the score. Weir converted from the touchline to make it 10 all, and to return to parity.
The last meaningful act in the half was when Rory Lamont raced in to catch a kick but instead copping a face full of Ross Rennie. Both went down and a lengthy medical intermission was enforced. Rennie looked to show no ill-effects but Lamont, who was yet to make an impression on this game, was sent to the hospital on the back of a motorised stretcher as claps rung around Murrayfield.
After the break, at 10-10, the game could have sluggishly carried on with a tit-for-tat feel. Laidlaw kicked one. So did Weir. 13-13. Same old. Two sides shaking to a standstill. But on the 53rd minute the complexion changed. Jacobsen, on for Traynor, was shoring up set play. He lent hard and Cusack relented, giving Talei the room to pick, draw and pass. The ball was worked to Visser who flashed for the line and was caught at the corner. Replays showed that he was getting pushed out, but with his outside arm folding under himself with the ball in it, and because the first contact seemed to be with the corner flag rather than the line the TMO gave Visser the score. It was a big call, but it meant the score ended up at 18-13.
Moments later Visser scored another that was beyond doubt. He caught a skip pass from De Luca and focussed on the line. He was at least 20 yards out, but he brushed off Stuart Hogg, easily rounded Colin Shaw and slid in with a defender at his inner flank. The replay showed that his slide was inch perfect as he was inside the touchline by a smallest of margins. His finishers instinct was strong and so were Edinburgh, as they held a score of 23-13.
This game was anything but one-sided, though, and twice Glasgow scored to restore the stalemate. Jackson, on for Weir, was instrumental in both.
He made a score for Colin Shaw as he took a high pass 12m out, readjusted and stabbed through a lovely grubber kick. It was a well-educated and perfectly weighted kick which Shaw walked onto unopposed. He then scored one of his own as Chris Cusiter shot up a high, aimless box kick that fell into Edinburgh’s try area. Lee Jones misjudged the ball, procrastinating and then knocking it forward. David Lemi raced forward with all the vigour of a moth heading for a flame but he was too eager and got caught up with Jones. The ball was lovingly fallen over by Jackson and the score was tied again at 23-23.
Jackson may rue his missed conversions or his short penalty attempt in the dying minutes but it was the boot that propelled Glasgow to this draw. Cusiter showed steel and the set-piece, with a particular nod to Kellock’s lineout, was dominant. Edinburgh, on the other hand, had the superior runners in Visser and Talei and more invention. At the moment it is still all to play for. The battle of the unstoppable force and the immovable object will conclude at Firhill on New Year’s Day.
Edinburgh: Paterson; Jones, De Luca, King, Visser; Laidlaw, M Blair; Traynor, Ford, Cross, Gilchrist, Cox, Denton, Rennie, Talei.
Subs: Scott, Jacobsen, Lozada, Grant, Walker, Gilding, Leck, Thompson.
Glasgow: Hogg; Lemi, Nathan, Morrison, Lamont; Weir, Cusiter; R Grant, MacArthur, Cusack, Gray, Kellock, Harley, Barclay, Beattie.
Replacements: Shaw, Jackson, Welsh, Hall, Low, Ryder, Fusaro, Pyrgos.