In a game that stretched the definition of what constitutes ‘rugby union’ to its limit, neither side will be enjoying their post-match analysis too much. Even fans of the more traditional game would have found this one a tough watch. Now it was Al K’s favourite manager, Ebbe Skodvahl, who said “Statistics are like mini-skirts – they give you good ideas but hide the important things.” In this instance we are going to attempt to use statistics to hide the bad bits of Saturdays ‘slugfest’ and convince you that it wasn’t nearly as bad as all that – or maybe not?
Possession and Territory
Edinburgh dominated the first half, with 60% possession of the ball and 67% territory, which aligns with most peoples view of how the game was progressing. They managed to come away with absolutely nothing to show for this, but it is worth remembering that they turned down several kicks at goal in favour of scrums and lineouts.
This was a clear tactic, but the Glasgow defence managed to survive time and again through decent rear-guard action and basic incompetence from the attacking side.
How many times have we as Scottish rugby fans bemoaned ‘not taking the points’?
Glasgow had a similar approach on their own limited opportunities, but the same theme of overthrowing lineouts when in attacking positions cost them. The sole attempt to take the points resulted in another shocker from Brandon Thompson.
It is sad to see, but a professional player cannot be missing those opportunities. With this season surely a write off for Glasgow now, maybe young Ross Thomson needs to be given some game time to see what he has?
The second 40 minutes saw a complete reversal of stats, with Glasgow enjoying 75% of the ball, and 82% of the territory.
Huw Jones apart, the Warriors looked completely unable to remotely threaten the Edinburgh defence and it is telling that the try that Glasgow eventually scored came from what felt like 150 phases of laboured forward-based rumbles on a day where backs were supernumerary.
Edinburgh’s sole score came on the back of another Thompson mistake: a high, looping pass not seen since Nick Frisby departed these shores missing everyone, being hacked on by one of four possible Edinburgh players, and ‘touched’ down by Magnus Bradbury. I say ‘touched’ as even with no Warriors players within 20m of him, Bradbury still almost made a mess of it, missing the ball with his hands and scoring with his belly. This was the game in microcosm.
Had it finished 0-0 I think it would have been a fair score.
I could change this section to ‘running into people then box-kicking to the other team to do the same’ but it just doesn’t have the same ring. Glasgow lead the stats here, with 275m made to Edinburgh’s 182, 15 defenders beaten to 9, 5 clean breaks to 1 and 55 gain line carries to 34. This shows how stats can be heavily misleading though, as Glasgow did heehaw with this, and a huge chunk of the metres gained came from one break by Huw Jones.
Edinburgh kicked the ball from hand 28 times, and passed 87, or in simpler terms, kicking 1 in every 4 balls. Glasgow kicked less (23), passed more (181) and had a ratio of 1 in 10 kicks to passes. This is possibly more proof, if needed, that having the ball sadly isn’t how to win rugby matches these days.
Okay so maybe the attack wasn’t great – was the defence just too good? Not really. Edinburgh made 165 tackles, missing 15 at a success rate of 91%, which is decent, but not brilliant. Glasgow missed 9 of 113, for 92%.
Ruck success was much sharper, with Edinburgh winning 71 of 72 on their own ball. They also turned Glasgow over 9 times, often in dangerous positions, which isn’t surprising given the quality of the back row that Edinburgh fielded, but it will still be hugely disappointing to Danny Wilson and Glasgow.
This has been the story of the season for them and seems unlikely to be easily resolved.
Set Piece and Discipline
According to the stats, Edinburgh had 62% lineout completion, which really kept Glasgow in the game. Much of the praise for this went to the lesser spotted Richie Gray, who returned to the Glasgow team and caused carnage at every throw in, stealing 4 balls (and winning 7 on his own ball). Edinburgh seemed unable to adjust their plans to counter this.
Glasgow had a 93% success on their ball, however that one single failure was on the Edinburgh 5m line, at 0-0. Costly mistakes, at the worst times, seems to be the Warriors way at the moment.
As for scrum time: WP Nel and Pierre Schoeman fans read on – everyone else please skip the rest of this section.
The Edinburgh pack destroyed Glasgow in the scrum.
Every scrum ball, on either put in, had Edinburgh marching forward, and sympathetic refereeing saved Glasgow from an even higher penalty count than the nine penalties that their six front row players conceded (Fagerson 4, Seiuli 3 being the main culprits). The front lads often take the brunt of the penalties, but they do rely on those behind to do some work as well. Richie Gray has never been a great scrummaging lock, especially compared with Ben Toolis and it showed, with some camera angles showing his body position to be poor. This set piece undid any momentum Glasgow could build and really was the key reason Edinburgh won.
Overall Glasgow conceded 18 penalties, 9 more than Edinburgh. Jamie Ritchie was the capital side’s worst offender, conceding four, but in general these were in ‘better’ positions. Edinburgh used the scrum to milk penalties, with a clear plan of attempting to temporarily remove a player from the Glasgow ranks, but this never materialised, again to the surprise of many.
A non-stat based, and completely non-scientific view, but Edinburgh looked a lot leaner and fitter than their West Coast counterparts.
Obviously, circumstances have dictated that many Glasgow players have missed some training recently (thanks Exeter) but it takes more than a few days off to lose professional conditioning. This team, to my untrained and hypocritical eyes, looks out of shape.
There was nothing like the pace of the Rennie/Townsend eras, but there was also no sign of any extra power or punch in the players.
Force = Mass x Acceleration.
There is more mass (in my opinion) but a lot less acceleration. Edinburgh didn’t look world-class in this area either, and the fact Glasgow came back into the game in the last 10 minutes would suggest that at least some level of fitness exists, but neither team threatened each other for pace.
On stats alone, Glasgow will be disappointed to have not won this one, but really Edinburgh were far and away the better side, especially in the first 40.
Had they taken the countless opportunities, or used their strike runners at any point, they could have been 20 points clear at half time.
Glasgow fans will be hoping that a losing bonus point does not cover up the facts that their team was soundly and completely outplayed, and that the glaring issues such as confidence at standoff, power at scrum time and basics in the red zone are not going away just because the manager is ‘proud’ of the performance.
As Scotland fans, we have seen this movie all too many times.
For Edinburgh, concern around lineout will continue, and there will be questions about the tactics and lack of adjustment to put the game out of reach, but ultimately all that matters are another 4 points in the league, and part one of the 1872 Cup secured yet again.