The deciding 1872 Cup game. The atmosphere was charged, even if some heads were sore. It was dark, but the fans expected more fire. Of course those expectations were founded on the belief that Glasgow had named a team as strong as they could whilst Edinburgh, with one eye on future fixtures in the Heineken Cup and the next RaboDirect game against an Ulster team that hammered Munster a few days ago, had set out to play their second string from the start. What happened in this game, though, was something short of incendiary.
As festive sparklers where dampened by a deluge, both teams trudged onto the pitch. The kick-off was dropped and both teams slumped into each other. Glasgow started slightly quicker, but both teams struggled to keep hold of the ball. Later Sean Lineen surmised that Glasgow made a lot of unforced errors as Edinburgh made many forced errors. Both made errors. After Weir slotted a penalty to make it 3-0 two minutes in, boot met ball as often as hands did.
Edinburgh’s lineout failed to function much like it did in the first leg, and Glasgow sat back like they do in most games. Godman had an early penalty attempt, but he slammed it horribly wide of the posts and the game returned to a series of knock-ons.
Edinburgh did gallop into contact with Denton and Gilchrist. Meanwhile Fusaro tried to steal everything. In fact Glasgow harried at all times as a team in the first half. They retained a kick on the 15th minute mark and blasted into Edinburgh territory. They missed a cross-field kick, but they were trying things. In retaliation Edinburgh tried to match the Warriors’ intensity, but again gave away a penalty. Weir made sure this time, making it 6-0.
A few more penalties were exchanged and Godman even tried to kick through for his backs, but to no avail.
In fact Edinburgh’s best chance of the half was a punt through by John Houston after Weir spilled ball forward outside his 22. The chase was on but Lemi scampered back to touch down in the nick of time. Glasgow soaked it all up once again and the half fizzled out.
The second half? It was not much better. After scrappy exchanges Godman booted a three-pointer to make it 9-6, and he looked slightly less skittish. He was still constantly slipping inside passes after skipping towards support, but the fly-half had a part to play in this game. He was drawing attention and with Blair keeping a low profile with ball in hand it was up to Godman to feed the runners. There were plenty of those and Edinburgh did enjoy a lot of possession and territory. They just couldn’t break down Glasgow’s defences.
So the game remained a skirmish. Balls flew everywhere, but the kicking was becoming more erratic. Weir misjudged his options whilst on the 55th minute Godman showed indecision when awarded penalties by the referee. He missed horribly once again, only to level things up at 9-9 3minutes later. That time it was from Fusaro killing the ball after Lee Jones caught a cross-field kick.
It looked like it would be deadlock for the second week in a row. Neither side looked like they would produce the magic to score a try and there was no space opening up for the attacks. Defences were on top. Penalty awards were frequent.
Glasgow did slow down ball, but the penalty awards were consistently against Edinburgh. At 9-9 the ref saw yet another infringement from Edinburgh and this time he unsheathed his cards. Matt Scott saw yellow for his tackling and Glasgow had numbers up. They duly kicked to the corner, and even though their drive was yanked down twice the ball rolled to the feet of Moray Low who picked up and was propelled over the line by his pack from 2m out. Wight though, on for Weir, missed the conversion. 14-9.
Several minutes later Wight made up for this as he kicked a penalty from under the posts as Traynor killed the ball again to make it 17-9. 8 points were scored in this tight game during the sin-binning. The most significant moment may well have been the yellow card.
Edinburgh had lost it, and their discipline was one of the main reasons they had done so. The game ended with Jones catching another cross-field kick only to be pushed out and then Godman landing a fortuitous drop-goal. This in itself was fortunate because he had a penalty opportunity within range as the clock hit 80, but Ross Rennie tapped and went, pushed the ball back and called for more support. The support came, but by the time the ball was given back to Godman he was retreating and had to swing a foot at it. It flew into the post, died and dropped just the right side of the bar. Game over at 17-12.
Glasgow won and Edinburgh got the bonus point but neither team played well. The record crowd of 8,852 saw a home victory, but they will have left with an imagination deficit. It was rightly pointed out to me by a professional player afterwards that that didn’t matter as long as results come. For Glasgow they must surely start playing well soon if they are to progress, but they are, indeed, still winning games. For Edinburgh they better hope their full strength team can move on from this because if they do not qualify for the next stage of the Heineken Cup then the 1872 experiment will have been in vain.
Glasgow Warriors: Murchie; Lemi, Hogg, Morrison, Shaw; Weir, Cusiter; Welsh, Hall, Low, Gray, Kellock (c), Harley, Fusaro, Wilson.
Subs: Macarthur, Cusack, Kalman, Ryder, Barclay, Pyrgos, Nathan, Wight.
Edinburgh Rugby: Thompson; Webster, Scott, Houston, Jones; Godman (c), Blair; Traynor, Kelly, Gilding, Gilchrist, Turnbull, Denton, MacDonald, McInally.
Subs: Walker, Hislop, Niven, Talei, Rennie, Black, Leonard, King.