GLASGOW WARRIORS 17
EARLY sendings-off ruin a game, or so they say, and all the more so when it is the underdogs who lose the man. Yet somehow, despite Simon Berghan’s fifth-minute red card for dangerous play, despite falling 17-6 behind with around 20 minutes to go, and despite the firepower Glasgow had on the field, Edinburgh snatched the least likely of victories with the last play of the game – the only time in the contest they had been ahead.
Glasgow, for whom this was a first defeat in the PRO14 this season, had only themselves to blame for letting this match out of their grasp. They had enough possession to have more or less decided the issue before the break, and saw enough of the ball in the second to have secured a five-point win. Instead, they left with only a losing bonus to show for their efforts.
To their considerable credit, Richard Cockerill’s side remained in contention throughout, digging deep to get back into the game after falling 17-6 behind with more than 20 minutes to go. They were in no way disheartened by the way Glasgow pressed them back into their own half for much of the time, instead being encouraged by their visitors’ failure to score more tries.
Even so, they could easily have settled for a respectable defeat – a temptation to which they may well have succumbed in years past. And after going behind with only two minutes played, they might well have thought this was not going to be their day.
The score was from Huw Jones, and came after Tommy Seymour moved into midfield and – thanks in large part to a dummy run by Alex Dunbar – broke the defensive line. A long pass from the winger gave the centre an easy run-in, and Pete Horne converted to make it 7-0.
Edinburgh were given a penalty three minutes later after Ali Price handled in a ruck, but before Sam Hidalgo-Clyne could take the kick play was halted to allow the Television Match Official to review an incident just prior to the award. The big screens in the stadium showed Berghan’s boot making contact with Fraser Brown, who was on the deck, and after a delay of two or three minutes referee Frank Murphy showed the Edinburgh tighthead prop a red card. The introduction of replacement prop Matt Shields for Hamish Watson was effectively double jeopardy for the home team, as the openside flanker is invariably one of their most important contributors.
The sending-off dampened the atmosphere for a time, but eventually some good work paid off for Edinburgh and Hidalgo-Clyne opened their account with a penalty towards the end of the first quarter. Glasgow, quiet since that early try, only rarely threatened to cut loose again in the ensuing quarter of an hour, seeming content on the whole to defend patiently.
The Warriors did reassert themselves in the closing minutes of the half, but were twice held up over the line in what turned out to be a crucial passage of play. A scrum five gave them good position from the second near thing, but the set piece turned, Edinburgh seized possession, and the chance was gone. There was still time for one more attack, from a penalty kicked to touch, but on this occasion, too, the home defence held firm.
No matter how frustrated Glasgow may have felt at that failure to extend their lead, they could have taken heart from the amount of effort their opponents had expended in the first 40. A man to the good, four points ahead, and with the likes of Finn Russell and Niko Matawalu to bring off the bench, the Warriors should have been able to remain patient in their bid to close the game out as the second half got under way.
After a Warriors break was snuffed out by a fine Dougie Fife tackle on Huw Jones, Glasgow were awarded a penalty from the resultant scrum, and from 25 metres out and in front of the posts Horne took his team into double figures. Russell then came on for Dunbar, with Horne moving to centre, just before Hidalgo-Clyne reduced the lead to four again with a penalty from the 10-metre line.
When Matawalu came on for Seymour, Glasgow had their most potent attacking line-up on the field for the final half-hour – ample time, on the face of it, to claim the three tries still needed for the bonus point. The Warriors’ defence had become markedly more assertive by that point, restricting Edinburgh to their own half as they tried to attack from deep. Their pack was gaining the upper hand too, and from a penalty kicked to touch, Scott Cummings was driven over for the second try of the game after 57 minutes.
But Edinburgh were far from finished, and soon narrowed the gap with a similar score of their own Their lineout drive was held up at first, but then at the second time of asking substitute scrum-half Nathan Fowles was able to finish the move off. Jaco van der Walt converted, and Edinburgh were once more just four points behind.
Inside the final 15 minutes, a Russell kick to the corner promised to produce a third Glasgow try, but, while Lee Jones sprinted into the in-goal area on time, the bounce of the ball deceived him and the chance was gone.
On the run of play the game should not have been still in the balance, but it was. Cockerill introduced Darcy Graham and Lewis Carmichael to the fray – the latter having been a late addition to the bench after Fraser McKenzie was injured in the warm-up – and as the final few minutes began Edinburgh were on the attack again. Awarded a penalty just outside the 22, they kicked to the corner and drove. Halted momentarily, they drove again, and with half the Glasgow defence stopping play for a second apparently thinking they had been given a penalty, substitute Chris Dean finished the move off from the back of the ruck. The home team were ahead for the first time, and not only that, by the time Van der Walt was off target with the conversion attempt, the clock had gone into the red and the most improbable of victories was in the bag.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Fife, J Johnstone, P Burleigh, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, S Hidalgo-Clyne; R Sutherland, S McInally, S Berghan, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, V Mata, H Watson, C du Preez. Substitutes: M Shields, N Cochrane, M McCallum, L Carmichael, J Ritchie, N Fowles, C Dean, D Graham.
Glasgow: R Jackson; T Seymour, H Jones, A Dunbar, L Jones; P Horne, A Price; J Bhatti, F Brown, Z Fagerson, S Cummings, J Gray, R Harley, M Smith, S Vunisa. Substitutes: P MacArthur, O Kebble, S Halanukonuka, K McDonald, C Fusaro, H Pyrgos, F Russell, N Matawalu.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Fowles, Dean. Con: Van der Walt. Pens: Hidalgo-Clyne 2.
Glasgow: Tries: H Jones, Cummings. Cons: Horne, Russell. Pen: Horne.
Scoring sequence: 0-5, 0-7, 3-7 half-time, 3-10, 6-10, 6-15, 6-17, 11-17, 13-17, 18-17.
Red card: Edinburgh: Berghan.
Referee: F Murphy (Ireland).