Edinburgh v Glasgow – An Alternative View

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.

Attack

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.

Defence

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.

Fitness

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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Originally from the Isle of Bute, John is a Glasgow Warriors fan and retired crash ball specialist. John still enjoys the occasional rugby 'social' with his former team mates at Bute and Bishopton RFC

19 comments on “Edinburgh v Glasgow – An Alternative View

  1. NorthI127 on

    Brandon Thomson (no p) played another shocker – I feel sorry for him, he looks badly in need of a sports psychologist and I hope he is getting help. Ross Thompson looked unfazed and needs to be given a chance to play

  2. Broono on

    Glasgow had nowt in the tank ,
    Edinburgh at home, the points were always in their bank.
    Dreadful Game, was Edinburgh’s all day long, one man stood in the way,
    his name is Richie Gray.
    (See what I done there ! very poetic)

    You get my drift , nothing is guaranteed but you should win at home and Glasgow were very poorly organised. it should have been a humping. Edinburgh have got next week to develop the killer instinct. I don’t think they know what to do when they taste blood.

    Gray looked like he just needed to turn up , he barely got out of first gear and looked every bit the professional. Seriously , he looked like he was playing a bounce game in the churches league. If that is the best Edinburgh can do in the Intercity feeding frenzy, I am not impressed.

  3. Bazz on

    Probably the worst game of rugby I’ve ever seen and I’m glad others are seeing it for how turgid it was. (27 penalties!)

    In the first half alone we had the following:

    8 knocks-ons
    3 kicks out on the full
    2 kicks kicked dead
    1 penalty kick missing touch
    1 penalty kick in front posts missed
    16 scrums (including multiple resets)

    And as John pointed out the attack (which we didn’t get to see much off given the ludicrous amount of time wasted during and between endless set pieces) was just one out runs into the defence and then box kicking (if the ball hadn’t been knocked on by then). Only occasionally did it reach the centres who didn’t threaten. There was everything on display that you didn’t want to see. Poor passing, poor shape, poor lines, no guile, no endeavour…sound familiar?

    1872 cups are famously average and I’ve seen some bad ones but this is the worst imo. I even tested my hunch.

    See below stats for the previous eight 1872 cup games pre lockdown and compare that to the weekend. (in brackets). I also unfairly compared it to the best game ive seen , the 2019 Calcutta cup. [these brackets]

    Tries: 3.75 (2) [11]
    Clean Breaks: 14 (6) [35]
    Defenders Beaten: 40 (24) [80]
    Penalties: 20 (27) [11]

    Great article though.

  4. The Chiel on

    I assume the deal was done well before this game, but the tactical refusal or complete inability of the Edinburgh 9 / 10 / 12 / 13 axis to get DVDM into the game would have convinced him he’d made the right call. About three touches ball in hand all game ?
    Edinburgh have a fine attacking back three, but in the main all they have to work with is kicked ball to run back. Cockers needs an attack coach to stand up to him, because there are good players there simply not performing. If they’re not careful, Darcy will be next.

  5. Big Al on

    It was a terrible game. Feel sorry for Toony when you think the bulk of the Scotland squad comes out of this lot. Confidence in the players seems to be low and the skill and fitness also seems to be suffering. The only good news is Russell should come in and bring some confidence and attacking brilliance.

    For Glasgow a big concern will be how to fix the scrum. Fagerson is a class tight head but was under serious pressure. I think he needs the rest of the front row to step up and second row/flankers to support him to be fully effective. I hope he’s not carrying a niggle.

    The Glasgow attack has definitely lost its edge and Im not sure if thats down to coaching and more pragmatic tactics, Thomson’s confidence or a more general loss of form across the backs. This season is a write off now so its time to give the youngsters much more game time. I thought Thompson looked good when he came on. The majority of those on display will disappear for the 6 nations so Glasgow will need to get all the youngsters on the pitch anyway.

    As for Edinburgh, they are playing too much to the coaches formula, and its a real waste of their backs talents. I wouldn’t want to be an outside back at Edinburgh.

    • Dobie on

      Al: Toony had this lot for the autumn cup. He seemed to get more out of them, or are they just suffering a hangover from that intensity.Either way, no one really looked like their first priority was playing rugby.Never a good sign.

      • Neil on

        The message from Toony the whole of 2020 was scrap the attack and be very good defensively. We are now see this trickle down into the club game.

        Appointing Danny Wilson as head coach: you think Gregor had nothing to do with that?

        And Cockerill is more a defence first coach also.

        What do we expect to happen? We are letting our best attacking players be signed away or mismanaged: Hogg, Russell, Hastings, DTH, Dunbar, Jones, Duhan, Scott, Hickey.

        The problem is coming from someone at the top with an overinflated ego!

      • Dobie on

        No problem with that Neil. I feel I need to watch what I say in writing but we all know the REAL problem. BTW if we leave our best attackers here they will be mismanaged as well.

    • Big Al on

      I was just thinking about whether Jim Mallinder as performance director at SRU has made much of an impact or whether surprisingly things might actually have been better under Scott Johnson. The main plaudits go to Tandy for the improved defence. Theres not much happening in the domestic club game at the moment so the full development resources of the SRU should be available to help the pro teams and the national team. No excuse therefore for skill, strength, conditioning, etc to be off the mark.

      • Neil on

        Things have been going downhill since Johnson left Big Al. Whether that is coincidence or not remains to be seen. But Dodson is no fool and would not have promoted Johnson to that role if he was not doing something right.

        Take away his coaching record and he could be considered an excellent performance director.

  6. Not science on

    Takeaway from the stats. Given it’s such a disaster zone for Scotland here is the argument for RG going back into the national team. Does not need to bring anything else to table apart from lineout superiority.

    • Neil on

      Agreed NRS. Why did you remove the rocket btw ?

      However i think the sample size is to small as of yet, if he can continue to be that kind of nuisance at the lineout for most of the games he plays then i think he offers more than Scott Cummings.

      • Scottie on

        Really, RG marauding at pace over the line? Scott Cummings is a top performer, consistently. RG is a talent long gone, with only a reputation that was more expectation than delivery. Slow and cumbersome, not dynamic. If only .

      • Scottie on

        Come on. Nobody looked good in that game. Huw Jones and Darcy Graham had a couple of moments but it was generally lethargic all round. Of course RG can catch a line out but he is slow around the pitch. I’d love to see the Gray brothers tear strips off the Twickenham counterparts but unlikely. Watch Ulster to see how far off the pace our teams are for physicality and intensity

      • TENC on

        Lets see how RG gets on against a real tough guy. Gilco will wobble around like a tractor and rob overrated past his sell by date Richie Gray all night long.

        I bet he wont you know.

    • Bass Rock on

      Which is what we have been saying since the RWC which he was right to avoid IMO. RG will take no nonsense from Toony. I would put both Grays in the second row for Twickenham , the brotherly thing will lift the side and they will give it their all.

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