The first half of this year’s 1872 cup kicked off at a sunny BT Murrayfield with PRO12 champions Glasgow looking to regain the trophy after last year’s shock. Edinburgh started the day as rank outsiders and things looked ominous for the capital side after only 6 minutes when a scything Glasgow move, started by a superb Nakarawa turnover, cut the black and red defence to shreds. Glasgow recycled well and eventually the ball was spun wide to Bennett who crossed the line. Russell lined up the extras but on a perfect day for kicking, he couldn’t convert.
Glasgow quickly looked to capitalise on their impressive start, stealing line out ball on half way but it was clear that Edinburgh were very much in the mood for a physical battle, with John Hardie leading his team in a manner that showed scant regard for his personal safety. Big Taqele Naiyarovoro wanted in on the action as well, one particularly well timed hit on Jack Cuthbert making the crowd wince.
Whilst the big hits and thundering rucking from both teams was all good fun, the other skills on show were rather uninspired. Some aerial ping pong resulted in a horrible sliced up and under from Sam Hidalgo-Clyne which brought play back to halfway. That period of play was particularly poor but then came the moment of the match. A great break out from Du Preez, where the big number 8 thundered up the wing before smashing into/through Finn Russell. With the Glasgow 10 laying splattered on the turf, a lovely pop out the side to Matt Scott, cutting a brilliant angle, sent the Scotland centre clear of the defence; a beautiful reminder of what Scott offers when fully fit. Hidalgo-Clyne added the extras from out wide: 7-5 Edinburgh.
It took 16 minutes for the first scrum to arrive. Glasgow looked to be heading backwards but they coped well and shifted the ball. From the resulting play they gained a penalty which Russell knocked into touch at the 22m line. Fraser Brown tried a training ground number, receiving the short ball straight back but his foot caught touch at the 5m line. Ross Ford now had a pressure throw, the sort of moment that brings everyone with any passing interest in Scottish Rugby out in cold sweats. The big hooker, on his 150th appearance for Edinburgh coped really well, throwing extra-long to Du Preez. Hidalgo-Clyne completed the job with the box kick up to around 30m.
Both sides continued to physically batter each other at every possible opportunity, with some of the rucking in particular looking right on the edge of legality. Again John Hardie was at the heart of so much of this physicality but he fell afoul of Mr Lacey on 26 minutes for hands in the ruck. Mark Bennett stepped up from 45m but was well wide with his long-range effort.
Glasgow have been incredibly undisciplined this season and this continued with a variety of offences, ranging from sacking the lineout, to a silly technical infringement by Adam Ashe that Hidalgo-Clyne knocked over to make the score 10-5. After this we saw the now traditional destruction of Ryan Grant by the opposition tighthead. WP Nel clearly had the better of the British & Irish Lion and hammered it home to the applause of the Edinburgh supporters.
The final act of the first half was another of the ‘Kebab Shop’ 3, Ryan Wilson, giving away a daft penalty stopping an Edinburgh maul. Hidalgo-Clyne stepped up but missed the kick wide to the right.
Half-time: Edinburgh 10-5 Glasgow
Glasgow were obviously read the riot act at half time, and came out of the blocks fast. Nakarawa, Bennett and Hogg all got the Glasgow supporters on their feet with brilliant breaks but the cutting edge was not there. Glasgow had to content themselves with another 3 points from Russell on 48 minutes to bring the game to 10-8.
Ross Ford had been busy in the loose, reminding everyone of his former back row roots, and he did well to earn his side another shot at the posts with some great breakdown work. Hidalgo-Clyne delivered the points to make it 13-8 but Glasgow came to life from this and a succession of penalties 5m out should probably have seen a man in the bin for Edinburgh. They survived and Russell knocked over the 3.
Glasgow again continued to undo all their decent work, when Puafisi decided to ignore the obvious call to not engage an Edinburgh maul. Fusaro rattled round the back giving the ref the easiest offside call of his career. Hidalgo-Clyne completed the punishment and Edinburgh looked good for their 5 point lead.
The next passage of play could be held up at this point in the season as a shining example of the Glasgow weaknesses. Two high tackles on the trot, first from Naiyaravaro and then Favaro, saw Edinburgh with a lineout on the Glasgow 5m. A simple catch and drive blasted the Glasgow maul defence to pieces and John Hardie came up holding the ball with something resembling a grin on his battered face. Hidalgo-Clyne continued his fine kicking form with the extra 2 points to take his personal tally to 13. Glasgow will be extremely disappointed to concede another try like this and with Racing 92 and Northampton to come in the European Champions Cup, Dan McFarland will need to earn his corn in the next few weeks.
Glasgow had one last chance to get a losing bonus point, but a brave tackle from Tom Brown on Naiyarovoro stopped the move. Brown was checked for a head injury and allowed to continue – before going off after the next play with suspected concussion. Not the best from the medical staff as he was clearly dazed after the initial contact with 135kgs of Fijian but his bravery summed up the desire of Edinburgh.
Simply put, they wanted this more than Glasgow
SRBlog Man of the Match: The official MotM was John Hardie and it is hard to argue. His physical, abrasive performance caused no end of issue for the Glasgow backline. Honourable mentions to Mark Bennett, who looked extremely dangerous with ball in hand, and WP Nel, who destroyed the Glasgow scrum.
Edinburgh Rugby: Jack Cuthbert; Dougie Fife, Michael Allen, Matt Scott, Tom Brown; Phil Burleigh, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Rory Sutherland, Ross Ford, WP Nel, Anton Bresler, Alex Toolis, Mike Coman (CAPTAIN), John Hardie and Cornell Du Preez.
Replacements: Neil Cochrane (for Ford 66’), Allan Dell, John Andress, Ben Toolis (for A Toolis 59’), Jamie Ritchie, Sean Kennedy (for Hidalgo-Clyne 70’), Greig Tonks and Andries Strauss.
Glasgow Warriors: Stuart Hogg; Taqele Naiyarovoro, Mark Bennett, Peter Horne(CAPTAIN), Tommy Seymour; Finn Russell, Grayson Hart; Ryan Grant, Fraser Brown, Sila Puafisi, Leone Nakarawa, Tim Swinson, Ryan Wilson, Chris Fusaro and Adam Ashe.
Replacements: James Malcolm (for Brown 73’), Gordon Reid (for Grant 56’), Zander Fagerson (for Puafisi 62’), Greg Peterson (for Swinson 62’), Simone Favaro (for Fusaro 62’), Ali Price (for Hart 56’), Sam Johnson (for Horne 67’) and Lee Jones.