The 1872 Cup deciding leg, and a change from the norm: no snow on the ground, a packed out sunny Scotstoun and a perfect pitch to play on. It was the last Glasgow game of Gregor Townsend’s reign, the 100th of Stuart Hogg’s career, and there were plenty of players looking to show the new Scotland boss their skills.
All of that aside, Glasgow were clear favourites to win this game. Although their season wasn’t the glorious sendoff for Toony they would have hoped for, it still went in an opposite direction to Edinburgh’s.
So it was that it was just under a minute before Edinburgh conceded the first penalty and Finn Russell kicked it against the wind.
The rare sight of a Scottish referee in the shape of Mike Adamson – neutral in this fixture (he played for Glasgow) – viewed things Glasgow’s way at the first scrum too but some strong running out wide from the visitors in red gave Duncan Weir a penalty of his own minutes later. He chipped it gently but the wind soared it over the stand, some indication of the kicking conditions despite the sunshine.
The opening exchanges were similarly to and fro, both sides finding space out wide but giving little ground through the middle. Edinburgh looked to offload more in contact, while Glasgow played their slightly more cautious – some would say judicious or patient – style.
As befits a derby game, there was a little spot of handbags on 13 minutes (Hardie possibly the villain but there was nothing given) and Weir, who knows the ground so well, used the wind to move his adopted home into the lead.
Glasgow took just three points on their first real foray into the visitor’s 22, Edinburgh’s harassing defence wise to the threats outside Russell and shutting them down quickly. They couldn’t resist getting on the wrong side of Adamson at the tackle area though, whether on the ground or through some borderline high/no-arm challenges.
The penalties were mounting up, and after successfully repelling two or three further attacks by the home side, Ross Ford was sent to the bin for another high tackle. Edinburgh managed the next ten minutes very well almost until the last possible moment, when Sam Hidalgo-Clyne was sent to join Ford for slowing the ball after Ali Price broke from a quick tap penalty.
That gave Glasgow one chance with a two man advantage but Finn Russell knocked on after jinking through a half gap and Edinburgh scrambled it clear to restore Ford and John Hardie – who had to sit out the sin bin as Cochrane deputised in the scrum.
The almost inevitable try from Glasgow came on the stroke of half time, two of the excellent second rows on the pitch combining with a flip Townsend would have been proud of – Scott Cummings putting Jonny Gray through the gap. The Glasgow captain looked around in vain for someone to pass to but backed himself and tumbled over the line for the try.
Half-time: Glasgow 11-9 Edinburgh
Duncan Weir, filling in at scrum-half while Hidalgo Clyne was off, showed where his loyalties now lie with an intrepid penalty into the wind to retake the lead minutes into the second half. The stocky standoff cut a determined figure all game, and kept the errors that have frustrated so much this season to a minimum.
Glasgow almost had a try on 45 mins when Lee Jones went over in the corner. The TMO ruled there was a foot in touch and this tetchy and tight affair continued to smoulder without fully bursting into life.
Both sides might have felt that Adamson missed things but as befits a regular cutting his teeth on the IRB Sevens Series he was willing to let the game flow. Edinburgh were starting to get the rub of the green. Weir kicked another tricky penalty on 53 minutes and then sparked a breakout with some quick hands to keep the momentum with the visitors.
At that point the score was close at 36-27 on aggregate and things got even closer as the fleet-footed Damien Hoyland danced through the Glasgow defence (proprietor: S. Hogg) and the despairing tackle of Matt Fagerson to score a try that put Edinburgh well in the lead in the game. They were only a couple of points off retaining the 1872 Cup, something that had seemed all but impossible on the form book.
Glasgow, as they have done when faced with that other team that plays in red (as an example), went a little into their shells and started conceding penalties but an injection of replacements on the hour mark thankfully reduced that tendency. They woke up when Tommy Seymour cut a classic Seymour line, stepping through the defence but he was held up over the line with Hoyland wrapped around him.
The home crowd didn’t like missing out on the try but it sparked them to life and from the very next scrum, a nicely delayed pop pass from Russell gave Hogg just enough space to scamper over for the try and bring the margin back to 3 points. It put Glasgow 7 points clear for the cup but they wouldn’t have wanted to lose Townsend’s last game in charge, so the newly golden-haired Sean Lamont was brought off the bench to sort things out.
It was also perhaps the reasoning behind the decision for Russell to kick a penalty to draw level, but he missed it.
At the next opportunity, Hogg belted it to the corner and Glasgow went in hunt of the win. As they had all game, Edinburgh made things tricky for Glasgow with a combination of linespeed and gang-tackling, and the Warriors were architects of their own misadventure, Jonny Gray caught offside.
Edinburgh marched up the pitch, possibly fancying a repeat of their late Dragons revival last weekend. Glasgow looked like they had managed to hold their line but they needed to keep the ball and return it deep into Edinburgh’s half. Finn Russell had played a very consistent if unspectacular game, but a wide pass from the Scotland standoff above Tommy Seymour’s head saw the British and Irish Lion bundled into touch for an Edinburgh lineout.
That was the only opening they needed.
They went for a catch and drive – playing to their strengths with Ben Toolis imperious at the lineout – before spinning it wide for another Glasgow reject, Glenn Bryce, who stepped Stuart Hogg for the try.
Weir kicked the con to put the result to bed against all expectation of an away win, but just losing the cup on an aggregate score of 43-41.
With the win arguably the most important thing, Edinburgh and beleaguered coach Duncan Hodge will take that and gladly. Glasgow will have to console themselves at retaining the 1872 Cup. Understandably, they had to grin and bear the trophy “celebrations” afterwards, which were subdued. With so many farewells from both clubs, there would have been mixed feelings all round at that result.
Plenty food for thought for Dave Rennie and Richard Cockerill next season.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)
SRBlog Man of the Match: In a game of match-ups with implications at international level, Ben Toolis, Scott Cummings and Damien Hoyland all did their cause no harm. Hoyland made the difference for Edinbgurgh in the second half while Duncan Weir kept them in the game in the first. The Edinburgh back row were ferocious but for me Ben Toolis set the tone as he has all season – even if his team have often not followed his lead. Cockerill could do a lot worse than to give Gilchrist a break and make Toolis or Watson the captain.