GLASGOW WARRIORS 17
THIS was far from a being a classic – indeed, the game will probably be best remembered for the stadium evacuation which forced a long delay just before half-time – but the most important thing for Glasgow was their return to winning ways after last week’s shock defeat by Edinburgh.
The result strengthens the Warriors’ position at the top of Conference A of the PRO14, and also means the 1872 Cup will go to a third-match decider, to be held in the capital in the last game of the regular season. Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill has suggested it would suit his team to play the game at Myreside, but if there is any interest in attracting a large crowd the obvious venue is Murrayfield.
The victory was not truly secure until Finn Russell’s fourth successful penalty seven minutes from time, but after a bright start Edinburgh never looked capable of threatening another upset. They showed enough determination in defence, but lacked the spirit and inventiveness in attack they had shown seven days earlier, and crucially also lacked the dominance in the maul that had helped them to their 18-17 win at the national stadium. For their part, Glasgow were well below their best, and although Niko Matawalu showed some pleasingly inventive touches, the upper hand was gained largely through perspiration rather than innovation.
Russell opened the scoring after five minutes with his first penalty, but it was Edinburgh who had the better of the first quarter, the highlight of which was a charge through midfield from Stuart McInally. That move ended in a knock-on out of a tackle, and the Warriors defence held firm in other respects too, winning a scrum against the head and halting the visitors’ first driving maul before it had a chance to build momentum from the lineout.
The trouble from Edinburgh’s point of view was failure to turn possession into points. They had a chance to do so when awarded a penalty 15 metres inside the Glasgow half, but opted to go for touch instead, only for Jan van der Walt to kick the ball dead. In that sense much of the first half was a mirror image of last week, when Glasgow dominated but Edinburgh denied them the scores that their build-up play could have produced.
With half an hour played Fraser Brown had to go off for a head-injury assessment and was replaced by Pat MacArthur, while Edinburgh also made their first change, bringing the Murrayfield match-winner Chris Dean on for James Johnstone, who appeared to have fallen heavily after being tackled by Jonny Gray.
There were only two minutes to go before the break when a fire alarm sounded and the stadium was cleared. The problem was traced to the north stand, and after a visit from the fire brigade everyone was allowed to return. Both teams agreed they should proceed to half-time immediately, and after a total break of around half an hour the second half got under way at 4.30pm, with MacArthur staying on for Glasgow and being joined by Pete Horne, a replacement for Alex Dunbar.
Within a couple of minutes Russell doubled the home team’s lead with his second penalty, then loosehead prop Jordan Lay came off the bench to make his Edinburgh debut. A 6-0 lead was far from decisive, but Glasgow steadily increased the pressure over the next quarter of an hour, and by the time Russell was on target with his third penalty the traffic was almost entirely in one direction.
Elliot Millar-Mills made his Edinburgh debut as both teams continued to make changes. None of the substitutes on either side made a dramatic impact, but at least Glasgow’s George Horne did his best to increase the tempo.
The Warriors edged further ahead with seven minutes to go through Russell as the Edinburgh defence were again penalised, then they came close to getting the first try of the day only for Duhan van der Merwe to halt Ruaridh Jackson a few metres from the line. The home team were soon back on the attack, however, and in the final minute they got the score that their superiority merited. George Horne got the ball in and out quickly from a five-metre scrum, and his long pass to Lee Jones enabled the winger to squeeze in at the left corner.
Before the conversion could be taken – and, as it turned out, missed – both Fraser McKenzie and Chris Fusaro were sinbinned for a minor scuffle shortly after Jones touched down. It was just about the only aspect of the match in which Edinburgh were able to achieve parity.
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; L Jones, N Grigg, A Dunbar, N Matawalu; F Russell, A Price; J Bhatti, F Brown, Z Fagerson, K McDonald, J Gray, R Harley, M Smith, M Fagerson. Substitutes: P MacArthur, A Allan, S Halanukonuka, G Peterson, C Fusaro, G Horne, P Horne, H Jones.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Hoyland, J Johnstone, P Burleigh, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt; S Hidalgo-Clyne; M McCallum, S McInally, M Shields, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: N Cochrane, J Lay, E Millar-Mills, F McKenzie, C du Preez, N Fowles, C Dean, D Graham.
Scorers: Glasgow: Try: L Jones. Pens: Russell 4.
Scoring sequence: 3-0 half-time, 6-0, 9-0, 12-0, 17-0.
Yellow cards: Glasgow: Fusaro. Edinburgh: McKenzie.
Referee: M Adamson (Scotland).