A mildly rejuvenated Edinburgh came to a muddy Murrayfield looking to improve their recent good run and compound Glasgow’s misery. Glasgow meanwhile would have been hoping their dominance in this fixture over the last few years might trump the form book which has them on something of a slide.
It wasn’t as fiery as previous encounters but the first half still saw three yellow cards. One was for persistent infringement, the other two for a mild scuffle between Tom Brown and Stuart Hogg that looked worse than it was when they ended up over the back of the advertising hoardings. Glasgow’s defenders threw themselves into everything tackle-wise which also resulted in cautionary periods on the deck for Seymour and Swinson; Seymour did not recover from his head knock. Glasgow’s aforementioned enthusiasm also led to an early card to Holmes for taking out Laidlaw behind the ruck.
So there were plenty of stoppages, and plenty of penalties in the first period.
Greig Laidlaw had a good start with the boot, getting the scoreboard moving early, and Weir was able to match him from the tee. With Edinburgh playing at the national stadium, it’s not an atmosphere or location either team would be afraid to play in. Indeed with Glasgow providing much of the Scotland team this year and Edinburgh fielding many foreign players not yet naturalised, the visitors may even have been more at home.
To start with though, they weren’t made to feel too welcome as Edinburgh came out and pushed them about.
Edinburgh are starting to look very well drilled as a pack, putting together breakdown dominance for sustained periods and for once doing the pushing off the ruck rather than being shunted themselves. They even managed a couple of forward drives Al Kellock would have been proud of.
As well as that they seem to have clawed back a bit of their flair with Tonks distributing well from 10, one such time setting Cuthbert and Fife loose to combine out wide for the try. In their pomp and with Visser on the park Edinburgh used to score tries like this for fun, a reminder that they can make it look frustratingly easy at times.
Edinburgh came out blasting after half time with the score sitting at 16-9, with Fife again scything down the wing but Denton unable to make his run shortly thereafter count.
With only two backs on the bench, Glasgow already had Jackson on for Seymour on the wing and when Jackson himself went off it was Ryan Wilson’s turn to move out wide. Weir took a penalty back for the visitors but with the way Edinburgh were attacking there only looked like one winner at that point.
Around the 50-minute mark they were gifted a penalty after some Rob Harley backchat moved it from half way into the Glasgow half. Both Tonks and Cuthbert would probably be able to kick from this range – Cuthbert certainly – and it was odd that Laidlaw took what for him might be considered a gamble, that would have seen Glasgow need two scores to win or a converted try to draw had it paid off.
Edinburgh did not score again.
Chris Cusiter was a stable and assured presence for Glasgow and as captain should take some of the credit for willing his team back into this game. Recently with Matawalu at 9 Glasgow have chased things too much, but here they simply waited like a malevolent tortoise to haul the hare back. Weir kicked a penalty with twenty to play and suddenly there Glasgow were: within a point. Having got them within range, the captain was taken off and his charges left to see if they could bring home the points that had until ten minutes previously looked very unlikely.
Edinburgh came within inches of a second try as Du Preez was held out, and Glasgow defended furiously before breaking out and taking it back to the middle of the park.
Stuart Hogg and the Glasgow backs had been quiet, but when Dunbar slid past Tonks’s outside shoulder off a pass from Josh Strauss and offloaded from the tackle to Van Der Merwe, Hogg flew past all the chasers – most of them in white – to slide on to the Canadian’s chip kick.
In the end that try was all it took to break Edinburgh who can take much from this performance, but sadly in a derby against their fierce rivals it is not the sort of result they will take much heart from. A tough turnaround to go to Scotstoun next week, but it will show us all what sort of team they really are.
FT Edinburgh 16-20 Glasgow Warriors
There will be more on the head to heads after the second leg as they relate to Scotland, but a few notes on Scotland players:
Greig Tonks – suddenly looks a very useful prospect at fly half. Great range of kicks, and not afraid to attack or defend. Was caught out for Hogg’s try though.
Jack Cuthbert – possibly the form fullback in Scotland, of the four possible on the park (Tonks, Maitland, Hogg were the other three).
Ross Ford – just when you write him off he seems to have discover a new lease of life. If he played like this every week he’d be the Scotland first choice on merit rather than a lack of alternatives. Hugely physical performance.
Chris Cusiter – his battle with Laidlaw is possibly the most important as Laidlaw’s presence or lack of it in any Scotland team determines the makeup of the rest of the back division, kicker-wise. If Glasgow had chased this game they would have lost. That they didn’t, and wore their way back in to the contest should be credited in no small part to their captain Cusiter.
Stuart Hogg – a quiet return to play in the centre but his try reminded us that if we want pace in the Scotland backline, he has to slot in somewhere.
Ruaridh Jackson, Duncan Weir – stuck on the wing when Seymour went off, and went off early in the second half. Weir kicked well but threw two nothing passes when the try was on and knocked on a further chance in the in-goal area. They may just have seen Greig Tonks step up next to them in the Scotland standoff race.Whoever tries to tackle Cornell Du Preez – he may be the complete package, but he looks to be wrapped in something very tough indeed.
Edinburgh – there is still not quite the iron will to grind out results that Glasgow seem to have. Well in control and ahead on the scoreboard they should never have lost this match. When they discover that it will put them and Scotland in a good place, as you can’t have only half your team believing.