Glasgow Warriors 14
DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield
EDINBURGH held their nerve and their discipline to grind out a win which brought them four valuable league points, but not the 1872 Cup, which has headed back west with the Warriors (thanks to their better aggregate score over the two inter-city matches played during this festive window).
A 70-yard try by Duhan van der Merwe following great work from Darcy Graham to secure a turnover was the decisive moment with nine minutes of the match remaining, but Edinburgh ‘senior’ coach Sean Everitt praised the collective efforts of his team afterwards.
“We chatted during the week about the 1872 Cup and we had to differentiate between the two,” said Everitt. “It is a vital win as far as the URC is concerned and we are delighted with that as it keeps us in touch with the top four teams. Yes, we are disappointed not to win the 1872 Cup but when you are chasing a score you tend to become too risky and concede.
“We are playing in one of the best competitions in the world so we want our four points,” he added. “Things would have been a bit different if we had a better start as it was a bit shaky. With the music playing the boys couldn’t hear the nomination at the start of the game [and let the kick-off bounce] so that is something we have to look into. That put us under pressure and we conceded a soft seven so it was always going to be tough from then against a team that started the weekend in the top two in the league.
“Discipline was better [then last week] and I am proud of the efforts the boys put in as we know the effort and small margins it takes to win games like this. The guys worked incredibly hard and it was our defence that was outstanding and won us the game tonight. The guys were resilient and determined, especially when Glasgow got into our half in the first half. We kept them out and won turnovers. We haven’t done well in that department through the year but there was an improvement last week and this.”
For Warriors, there was some consolation in retaining the silverware and picking up a losing bonus-point which could be key in the final shakedown at the end of this URC campaign, although a potentially serious knee injury suffered by Rory Darge is a cause for concern for the club and the national team.
This result leaves them third in the table at the halfway stage on 31 points, two points behind league leaders Leinster who play their game in hand at home to Ulster on New Year’s Day. Edinburgh are now five points behind Glasgow in fourth place in the table.
“I’ve just told the guys that winning a trophy is what people play for,” said Warriors head coach Franco Smith. “We still managed to keep them away from winning the trophy by not allowing them to overturn the aggregate score. We still got the bonus point from the game, which they didn’t get at Scotstoun [last week] so I’m really, really proud. We still won on merit, by a long shot, and that’s important. That’s why we participate in this game to get those rewards.”
Smith added that he is now looking forward to giving his players a week off, with no matches scheduled next weekend, before attention turns to their final European Champions Cup pool matches, against Exeter Chiefs away on 13th January then Toulon at home six days later.
“Some of the guys have came from the World Cup and, although they’ve had some time off, this will be a proper week at home,” he reasoned. “Our opposition have to play this weekend and next weekend so that can give us an opportunity to reset physically to bounce back into Europe.”
Glasgow drew first blood in familiar fashion when Johnny Matthews propelled himself over the line off the back of a powerful line-out maul for his 10th club try of the season, with George Horne slotting the touchline conversion for good measure.
Edinburgh came close to cancelling out that early score on 15 minutes when Ben Healy ghosted through a gap in midfield and got to five metres out, but there was no support and Pierre Shoeman‘s laboured attempt at sending slow ball towards the left touchline was picked off by Glasgow’s cover defence.
There was no let-off for Glasgow 10 minutes later, however, when the visitors were guilty of standing-off Edinburgh as they attacked from scrum ball inside their own half, allowing Darcy Graham to ask some tricky questions in the right-hand corner, sucking in the Warriors defence, before the ball was transferred back across the park for Mark Bennett to send Matt Currie over in the corner with an excellent 20-yard pass executed in full stride. That made it 5-7 to the visitors at the break.
Viliame Mata was perhaps fortunate to escape a card early in the second half when he was caught flat-footed by Josh McKay and ended up catching the New Zealander on the side of the head with his shoulder, and Edinburgh made the most of that reprieve with two excellent kicks behind from Ali Price pinning Glasgow back inside their 22 and earning a not-rolling-away penalty against Huw Jones, which Healy turned into three points, giving his side a slender single-point lead with 52 minutes played.
Edinburgh charged back onto the offensive straight from the restart, with Price’s quick-wittedness releasing van der Merwe up the left touchline, and the scrum-half – who did his international prospects no harm here – carried the move on himself, before popping superbly off the deck to the galloping Glenn Young. The Edinburgh coaching team screamed frantically for a Glasgow side-entry when the Edinburgh second-row was eventually brought down but it wasn’t forthcoming, so Ewan Ashman and Currie kept momentum going with a couple of powerful bursts, only for Schoeman to lose control as he tried to rip and go off Jamie Ritchie.
Instead, it was Glasgow who struck next to regain the lead, when Sione Tuipulotu‘s offload out of contact sent Stafford McDowall on a 20-yard rampage past three weak tackles from Luke Crosbie, Currie and Wes Goosen on his way to the line, and Horne nailed the touchline conversion.
That was a bad score to lose, but Edinburgh’s ability to stay in touch was key to this gritty win, and they hauled it back to a three-point game with another Healy penalty awarded against Ross Thompson for not rolling away.
The next 10 minutes were a contest of cat and mouse, with Glasgow pinning Edinburgh back deep inside their own 22 with a couple of shrewd kicks which forced goal-line drop-outs, before the game burst back into life on 72 minutes whenGraham executed a sensational turnover on the tackled Scott Cummings then set off up the left touchline, before releasing his big palvan der Merwe on that 70-yard dash all the way to the line.
Healy slotted his third penalty of the match with three minutes left to play, from right in front of the posts after Zander Fagerson was guilty of taking out Ben Vellacott at the back of a ruck, and that was enough to ensure the four league points – but not the 1872 Cup – would be Edinburgh bound.
Edinburgh: W Goosen (E Boffelli 70); D Graham, M Bennett, M Currie, D van der Merwe; B Healy, A Price (B Vellacott 59); P Schoeman (B Venter, 62), E Ashman (D Cherry 62), W Nel (D Rae 77), G Young (M Sykes 58), G Gilchrist, L Crosbie, J Ritchie (H Watson 60), V Mata.
Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; H Jones, S Tuipulotu©, S McDowall, K Rowe (B Afshar 60); T Jordan (R Thompson 62), G Horne; J Bhatti (N McBeth 53, Z Faerson 73), J Matthews (G Turner 53-79), Z Fagerson (O Kebble 60), S Cummings, R Gray (M Williamson 54), T Gordon (G Peterson 53), R Darge (H Venter 54), A Miller.
Referee: Mike Adamson
Edinburgh: Tries: Currie, van der Merwe; Pen: Healy 3.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Matthews, McDowall; Con: Horne 2.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7 (h-t) 8-7; 8-12; 8-14; 11-14; 16-14; 19-14.
Yellow cards –
Edinburgh: Sykes (80 mins)