Glasgow Warriors 31
DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield
A RAINBOW CUP campaign which began with humiliation for Glasgow Warriors in Treviso three weeks ago has been rejuvenated by back-to-back derby successes, which have thrust Danny Wilson’s side into the frame for qualification to the competition’s cross-hemisphere final against a South African side on 19th June.
With two games of the pool stage left to play, they are second equal in the table with Munster, four points behind unbeaten Benetton. Next up is Dragons away in just under a fortnight’s time (29th May), followed by Leinster at home the weekend after (4th June).
Whether Warriors would really welcome qualification to the play-off – which would mean yet another game at the end of a marathon season in a tournament which doesn’t really count for anything – is another matter. As you would expect, Wilson and his squad are making all the right noises about wanting to win every game they play, but, really, this campaign – which started 38 weeks ago when professional rugby first emerged from lockdown to complete the 2019-20 season before segueing straight into 2020-21 – has gone on for long enough.
“A big motivation this week was to do the double over Edinburgh and it was a big week for recognising and putting out the right performance for Rob Harley [as he became the first player to make 250 appearances for the club], so we’re really pleased to get the win,” said Wilson afterwards.
“There is still little bits around penalties we need to be careful of,” he added. “If you end up feeding a good side, you are going to get hurt by that. So, a couple of things we still need to tidy up, but on the whole I’m really pleased. The tries we scored and the way we approached the game, I think we showed real passion in both derbies [in the last eight days] to come away with two wins.”
Of more lasting significance than Rainbow Cup points and local bragging rights, is the opportunities this and other recent matches have provided for some of the young players in the Glasgow set-up to make their mark before the arrival of more experienced personnel in the summer.
Back-three tyros Rufus McLean, Cole Forbes and Ollie Smith were all listed as injured this week. Half-backs Ross Thompson and Jamie Dobie have now had a fair bit of game time although every minute counts at this stage in their careers. But the most notable beneficiaries from this particular match were 21-year-old flanker Rory Darge (recently signed from Edinburgh) and 20-year-old prop Tom Lambert, who both made their first starts for the club.
“They did really well,” acknowledged Wilson “They are both going to learn lessons along the way. Rory had to go the full 80 because Ryan Wilson had a back issue, so he was blowing a little bit at the end, but his footwork and some of his carrying was excellent. He’s going to be a great addition for us. We’re over the moon to get him.
“Tom has had to go through a lot of work this season around scrum. Gary Strain has done a fair bit with him individually. He was up against a very experienced customer in WP Nel tonight and did well, and also contributed a fair mount around the park.”
Edinburgh got off to a flyer, working their way deep into enemy territory with some good continuity play, before Pierre Schoeman, Charlie Savala and Chris Dean combined to create that little bit of space in which Viliame Mata can be deadly. The Fijian No8 sucked in two defenders and then released Dean on his inside for the opening try with just three minutes on the clock.
But the hosts let the visitors right back into it when Blair Kinghorn’s penalty to the corner was palmed back into play by Adam Hastings, and two cheap penalties – against Eroni Sau for holding-on then Schoeman for flying into the side of a ruck – created an opportunity for Ross Thompson to fire home three easy point from directly in front of the posts.
Kinghorn briefly restored the home team’s seven point advantage with a successful shot at goal after Lambert was penalised for not rolling away after a tackle in the middle of the park, before Warriors squared the match when Matt Fagerson – making his comeback after two months out with an ankle injury – athletically dived over the top of a ruck for his team’s opening try, which Thompson had no problem converting.
A coruscating break from Horne, backed up by Hastings, put Warriors back on the offensive and they got their reward when Schoeman was sin-binned for pulling Nick Grigg back, and the ferocious George Turner powered over from the close-range tap-penalty. Thompson’s conversion put the visitors seven points ahead, but only briefly.
It was end to end stuff, and Edinburgh pack power got them back in the strike zone, with Mike Willemse – just on the park for the concussed Stuart McInally – burrowing over to set up Kinghorn’s conversion which squared the contest with just half an hour played.
Warriors pushed hard to have the last word in a frantic first half. Fagerson peeled round the front of a five-metre line-out and did well to wrestle his way over the line, but Mata managed to prevent the ball being ground. Then Thompson and Hastings combined to prise Edinburgh’s defence open on the right, but the final pass went slightly behind Grigg leading to a knock-on.
Finally, the visitors got their reward on the stroke of half-time when their pack created the platform for Hastings to hit the line hard and roll out of Jamie Hodgson‘s tackle for a well-worked score.
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Warriors were back onto the front foot straight from the restart and spent the first 12 minutes of the second half camped five yards from Edinburgh’s line. Lambert threatened with a bustling run, but he couldn’t get the ball away to Grigg for the killer pass. Darge thought he had gone over but the TMO intervened to highlight that Turner had unintentionally obstructed Willemse so the score was chalked off. Eventually, scrum-half Horne snatched that bone point with some lightning-fast hands at the base of a ruck on Edinburgh’s line.
Edinburgh needed a way back into the game and it looked like Mata might deliver when he scooped up a loose ball on his own 22 and charged 50 metres up field, but Ratu Tagive got back to make the try-saving tackle, and Horne did brilliantly to ambush Charlie Shiel as he attempted to recycle quickly.
Kinghorn’s break and Shiel’s finish with just 10 minutes to go pulled it back to a seven-point game, but Edinburgh couldn’t get any closer.
“There was some really good bits and some had bad bits,” reflected Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill. “We started well but we couldn’t get any territory in the game and invited them into our third of the field and they took advantage of it.
“It ends up being a one-score game but it’s down to the fine margins of doing those little things right consistently. The boys worked hard. We have a lot of guys missing and have had difficulties in the No. 10 position all season which hasn’t helped us.
“It’s a little bit disappointing as we worked hard in the week around the small moments. But the small moments were won by Glasgow.
“The players will have a week off and then we have a two-week run-in until Ulster and Scarlets. That’s where we’re at … that’s the competition.”
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn, D Hoyland, J Johnstone, C Dean (G Taylor 56), E Sau; C Savala (J Blain 63)), H Pyrgos (C Shiel 56); P Schoeman (B Venter 63), S McInally (M Willemse 27), W Nel (L Atalifo 63), M Sykes (M Kunavula 67), J Hodgson, M Kunavula (C Boyle 60), L Crosbie (A Miller 25), V Mata.
Glasgow Warriors: A Hastings; K Steyn, N Grigg, S McDowall, R Tagive (L Jones 62); R Thompson, G Horne (J Dobie 64); T Lambert (D Evans 71), G Turner (G Stewart 67), E Pieretto (D Rae 71), R Harley, R Gray (K McDonald 54), R Wilson (T Gordon 64), R Darge, M Fagerson.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Edinburgh: Try: Dean, Willemse; Con: Kinghorn 2; Pen: Kinghorn.
Glasgow Warriors: Try: Fagerson, Turner, Hastings, Horne; Con: Thompson 4; Pen: Thompson.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3 10-3; 10-8; 10-10; 10-15; 10-17; 15-17; 17-17; 17-22; 17-24 (h-t) 17-29; 17-31.
Yellow cards –
Edinburgh: Schoeman (22mins)