Glasgow Warriors 23
A FINE day to be a Glasgow Warrior. After the trials and tribulations of recent months, Danny Wilson’s men delivered a performance here to provide encouragement that the trajectory of this club does not need to be downward.
Ross Thompson, making his second appearance and first start, kicked 13 points and gave an assured all-round performance at stand-off. He distributed the ball with accuracy and intelligence, kicked with ambition and imagination (even if the ball didn’t always bounce kindly), made a courageous tackle on a rampaging Viliame Mata early on, and even managed to charge down a Blair Kinghorn clearance in the second half.
Fellow novice Rufus McLean rose to the occasion on the few opportunities he had to get involved on the wing, while Huw Jones reminded us of his class with a couple coruscating breaks.
But it was the work of the pack which was perhaps the key to this win. They had been steamrollered at scrum time when these two sides met a fortnight ago, but got the upper hand in this area here, which was all the more impressive because the home side played the full 80 minutes with the same two props while Edinburgh were able to rotate in two highly regarded scrummagers in WP Nel and Pierre Schoeman with just under 30 minutes to go.
And the cherry on the cake for Warriors fans: Leone Nakarawa returned off the bench for the final 18 minutes, his first rugby in 11 months, and was still standing at the end.
Edinburgh’s preparation will have been disrupted by two late call-offs, with second-row Ben Toolis and winger Jack Blain failing fitness tests before the bus left Edinburgh – meaning Jamie Hodgson and Jamie Farndale were added to the starting XV. This may have contributed to their sluggish start, but the bigger factor was the intensity Warriors brought to the opening exchanges, which clearly caught their guests off guard..
Thompson took an early opportunity to settle the nerves by kicking a mildly tricky penalty on three minutes after Chris Dean was whistled for not rolling away from the tackle on three minutes, and he doubled-up on that nine minutes later when Warriors’ scrum squeezed another tough but kickable penalty 35-yards out and 10-yards in from the right touchline.
Having worked so hard to get themselves six points ahead, there will be frustration in the Warriors’ ranks at how easily they let Edinburgh back into it, when Aki Seiuli coughed up a soft offside penalty the first time his team were pushed back into their own third of the field, and Jaco van der Walt stepped forward to kick the goal.
Warriors’ indiscipline continued with two or three more cheap penalties being conceded, then George Turner got himself yellow-carded for dropping his shoulder into Grant Gilchrist as the big second-row stretched for a charge-down. He was perfectly entitled to stand his ground, but this, as referee Mike Adamson surmised when reviewing the footage, was a “cheap shot”.
Edinburgh took advantage, kicking to the corner then spreading the ball back and forth across the park three times before space opened up on the right for Farndale to scuttle in, with Van der Walt adding the conversion for good measure.
Then came a bizarre moment when Nic Groom heard the horn of a train as it passed by the back of the North stand and, as if he was back in his native South Africa, mistook if for the half-time hooter, so ran back 20 yards and then kicked the ball horizontally out inside his own 22. But there was still 50 second to go, so Warriors got the attacking line-out and took advantage by engineering another penalty opportunity for Thompson to reduce the gap to just a single point with his third penalty of the night.
Warriors roared out of the blocks at the start of the second half and recaptured the lead when they stuck to the game-plan whilst playing advantage – instead of looking for the miracle pass, with Turner (thrice), Zander Fagerson (thrice), Seiuli (thrice), Ryan Wilson (once), Scott Cummings (once) and Thomas Gordon (once) all carrying hard, before Matt Fagerson took it on for the fourth time in that one passage of play to power over.
The hosts then stretched their lead when Price wrapped round to create space for Thompson, who still did well to pull in two defenders before releasing Huw Jones on a coruscating break in the outside-centre channel, culminating in Van der Walt seeing yellow for languishing on the wrong side of the tackle, and Warriors kicking to the corner. Richie Gray caught in the middle and Turner burst from the maul with nothing on this earth going to stop him on the way to the line.
Warriors were now in control, but they couldn’t kill Edinburgh off. In fact, Edinburgh got right back into it, almost straight from the restart, when Hamish Watson and Dave Cherry combined on a set line-out move and Chris Dean finished off an excellently worked try.
It was now a one-score game, with more than 20 minutes still to go. Replacement loose-head Pierre Schoeman thought he had wriggled over for the visitors, but there was a double-movement. Huw Jones was the third player to see yellow for being on the wrong side of the tackle after Mark Bennett had rolled back the years when stepping inside three men. And Dean had a trailing foot pushed into touch in the process of touching down in the corner.
Despite all this, Warriors held on until the 78th minute, when Edinburgh winger Eroni Sau exploited some inexperience to burst some weak tackling to go over in the corner. One point in it.
That left Van der Walt with a potentially match-winning conversion from wide on the left. If he’d kicked it then it wouldn’t have been the greatest injustice in sporting history – but neither would have been the right result if you believe in natural justice.
Warriors were the marginally better team on the day. They’ve lived through some dark hours, they deserve this chink of light at (what they hope is) the end of the tunnel. It’s up to them where they go from here.
The final 10 seconds of regular time, and two minutes of injury time, saw Glasgow inexplicably trying to keep the ball alive. All they needed to do was kick it out, but they continued to play, eventually earning a long-range penalty opportunity for Thompson, which floated to the wrong side of the post.
It turned out that the Glasgow boys thought this year’s 1872 Cup was a two game affair, meaning they needed a four point win to secure the better aggregate score. There is, in fact, a third instalment in the series at a date still to be arranged, and it will be decided on games won and lost.
It will be a standalone match, with no league points up for grabs. Let’s hope that it is more like this one, than the catastrophe we witnessed two weeks ago.
Glasgow Warriors: H Jones; L Jones (O Smith 78), N Grigg, R Fergusson, R McLean (J Matthews 35-42); R Thompson, A Price; A Seiuli, G Turner (J Matthews 65), Z Fagerson, R Gray (L Nakarawa 62), S Cummings (R Harley 69), R Wilson, T Gordon, M Fagerson.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; J Farndale, M Bennett, C Dean, E Sau; J van der Walt, N Groom (H Pyrgos 60); R Sutherland (P Schoeman 54), D Cherry, S Berghan (W Nel 54), J Hodgson, G Gilchrist, M Bradbury (L Crosbie 65), H Watson, V Mata.
Referee: Mike Adamson
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: M Fagerson, Turner; Cons: Thompson 2; Pens: Thompson 23.
Edinburgh: Tries: Farndale, Dean, Sau; Cons: Van der Walt, Bennett; Pens:
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 3-0; 6-0; 6-3; 6-8; 6-10; 9-10 (h-t) 14-10; 16-10; 21-10; 23-10; 23-15; 23-17
Yellow cards –
Glasgow Warriors: Turner, Jones.
Edinburgh: Van der Walt.