Glasgow made the short hop across the M8 to take on their oldest rivals in the now ‘not-so-festive’ 1872 Cup first leg.
Edinburgh welcomed back former Glasgow favourite Duncan Weir at 10, and a return from injury for Alasdair Dickinson. Gregor Townsend gave Junior Bulumakau a first start of the season, in place of the absent Tommy Seymour who was rested.
The stormy weather battering Scotland seemed to have relented for this one, resulting in some attacking intent from both teams, but Edinburgh seemed fully short of luck after only 2 minutes when Blair Kinghorn tried to gather a speculative hack through from Alex Dunbar. The young full-back made a hash of the collection; the ball bouncing off his knee and into the try area, where Bulumakau gratefully dotted down.
First touch of the season, first try. Despite Russell missing the extras, Glasgow were delighted with the belated Christmas present.
Edinburgh really only had one option – start again. The forwards, ably lead by Hamish Watson, continued to carry hard and got the capital side into the right parts of the paddock, but the Glasgow defence seemed comfortable for most of it.
Referee Ian Davies seemed determined to penalise the Warriors at every breakdown, and after 5 penalties (Edinburgh having conceded none) Davies finally snapped, yellow carding former Edinburgh man Alex Allan. Weir added 3 points, on top of an earlier shot at goal to give the Edinburgh side a one point and one man advantage after 20 minutes.
The capital side saw plenty of ball in Allan’s absence, but with little penetration and some fairly poor passing, the Glasgow team comfortably held them out. As soon as Glasgow were restored to 15 men though the visitors turned up the dial, with a thunderous rolling maul absolutely mullering the Edinburgh forwards.
Josh Strauss continued his try scoring streak by sneaking over at the bottom of the heap but this was another 8-man effort, against a strong Edinburgh pack. Russell kicked the extras making it 12-6 to the Scotstoun side.
Russell was oozing confidence, no doubt buoyed by his drubbing of Dan Carter twice in 2 weeks. The 10 was as mercurial as ever in this one, with plenty of tricks added to his outstanding defence. The last kick of the half fell to him, and another 3 points saw Glasgow lead 15-6 at half time.
Half-time: Edinburgh 6 – 15 Glasgow
Edinburgh were full of positive endeavour in this derby game, but when Glasgow upped the intensity you could really see the difference in quality between the sides.
Mark Bennett has become a reserve for Glasgow in recent months, but the Ayrshireman was enjoying his rare start and had a cracking game, with some lovely breaks, one of which led to another easy shot at goal for Russell. This time the swirling wind got the better of him, with the ball sailing wide to the right.
Weir had no such issues with his next penalty attempt, but it started to feel like Edinburgh were clinging on. Russell then showed the world that he can drop a goal, although in very strange circumstances. A penalty shot he had lined up flopped off the tee as he began his run up. Not to panic, he picked it up and dropped a cracking goal, with a bit of laughter to boot with referee Davies and his teammates.
The odds of a drop goal to win it vs Ireland in the 6 Nations opener anyone? At least we know he can do them.
Weir added another 3 of his own to leave the scoreboard 12-18 with 20 minutes remaining. If Edinburgh were to strike, this would need to be the time.
Glasgow would have been happy with 4 points for the win in this one, but a bonus point was still very possible when Alex Dunbar crashed over to secure another Glasgow try following excellent build up play by the pack.
Russell got the extras, but despite plenty of huffing and puffing, Glasgow could not blow the Edinburgh house down as the defence held mostly firm. Edinburgh had one last chance to claim a losing bonus right at the death as Sean Kennedy and Hoyland scarpered through the Glasgow defence but more scramble defence ensured that Mata was held up over the line. Edinburgh had nothing to show for their 80 minutes.
If truth be told this was probably the correct result, and Glasgow will see this as 4 points back on their deficit from last season. Now we only need to wait ‘til match day 22 to see who gets the 1872 Cup trophy.
FT: Edinburgh 12 – 25 Glasgow
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)
Man of the match: Sponsors award went to Jonny Gray, with no complaints here. The lock continues to tirelessly go about his work, but his handling of the referee is definitely improving. Russell was excellent, as was Hamish Watson from the capital side. Brian Alainu’uese had one of his best games alongside Gray too.
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn; Damien Hoyland, Chris Dean, Phil Burleigh, Tom Brown; Duncan Weir, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson, Cornell du Preez.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Allan Dell, Murray McCallum, Fraser McKenzie, Viliame Mata, Sean Kennedy, Jason Tovey, Glenn Bryce.
Glasgow Warriors: Stuart Hogg; Junior Bulumakau, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Lee Jones; Finn Russell, Henry Pyrgos; Alex Allan, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Brian Alainu’uese, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Simone Favaro, Josh Strauss.
Replacements: Pat McArthur, Ryan Grant, Sila Puafisi, Adam Ashe, Chris Fusaro, Ali Price, Nick Grigg, Sean Lamont.