Glasgow Warriors 15
DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield
NORMAL service has resumed. Well, sort of! The lack of noise at Murrayfield when Edinburgh are playing at home is a running joke in Scottish rugby, but this was taking it to a whole new level. So, a surreal atmosphere but there was something very familiar about how Edinburgh overcame a few wobbles to work their way to a commanding victory, securing the 1872 Cup for the third consecutive season in the process, and Leinster beating Munster in the later match means that Richard Cockerill’s side will finish top of PRO14 Conference B and have a home semi-final draw against Ulster in the play-offs.
That makes next Friday’s re-match against the same opposition – hopefully in front of a crowd of 700 – a dead-rubber, giving both head coaches scope to rotate their squad and perhaps experiment a little, although local bragging rights will mean that a full-blooded contest is still inevitable.
There have been a few closed-door games this year – the national women’s team against England in February and the Under-20s against Wales just before lockdown began in March – but at least those occasions had a scattering of family and close friends allowed in, this one had just the two squads, a small media corps and a handful of SRU officials, meaning the lack of noise inside the 67,000-seater stadium when the teams ran out was unnerving. Good on Scottish Rugby’s Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay for his solo applause effort.
We guessed it was going to be scrappy after such a long lay-off and that allied with a rigid enforcement of the new guidelines on how the breakdown should be refereed meant that it wasn’t until we were quarter of the way through this game that we really saw any continuity rugby, and even then it was pretty scrappy and tentative. But all things considered, it was a pretty good effort in the circumstances.
Jaco van der Walt kicked Edinburgh into a third minute lead when Matt Fagerson was penalised for failing to roll away after making a tackle, and the capital stand-off doubled his account from right in front of the posts following a Warriors offside with six minutes on the clock.
Adam Hastings halved the deficit with a penalty of his own when Rory Sutherland was called for hitting the deck at a scrum 40 metres out, and the nominally home team then snatched the lead when Peter Horne scooted over from close range off the back of a scrum directly under Edinburgh’s posts.
That attacking position was established after a suspicious looking forward pass by Warriors, then a fumble by Blair Kinghorn as he tried to gather a kick through, which was picked up be a team-mate from an offside position leading to a penalty, and Edinburgh’s frustration at suddenly falling behind after dominating the opening 15 minutes boiled over when captain Stuart McInally hauled Hastings over as he celebrated in the in-goal area, triggering a mini-rammy and conceding a penalty for the restart.
McInally may also have been irked by the Warriors reserves who had been warming up behind the posts flooding onto the playing surface to celebrate (gloat), and you can understand his annoyance – but better to keep focus on the game, which is what Edinburgh did for the next 10 minutes as they slowly ground down Glasgow’s committed defence and eventually got their reward when scrum-half Nic Groom wriggled over from close range following umpteen powerful phases.
Edinburgh’s lead was short-lived. Straight from the restart, Warriors responded in kind, with Hastings capitalising after the pack had bashed their way to within a few metres of the line. The conversion rebounded off the right post, leaving the men from the west with a narrow 15-13 lead at the turnaround.
Edinburgh dominated territory and possession at the start of the second half, but their attack lacked focus, until – finally – on the hour mark, van der Walt released Duhan van der Merwe on the left, who slalomed past several flailing Warriors before releasing Groom for his second try with a lovely one-handed offload.
Van der Walt slotted the conversion, then added a 40-metre scrum penalty to leave Warriors needing two scores for the win with 14 minutes left on the clock. Glasgow’s discipline started to fray, most noticeably when they were marched back 10 metres for arguing with referee (and former Warriors player) Mike Adamson.
Groom was hauled off straight after his second try, and his replacement wasted little time in making is mark with a wonderful weaving run from 35 yards out for an excellent solo try, and the only matter to be resolved now was whether a bonus-point could be secured. It wasn’t to be, but Richard Cockerill’s side won’t lose too much sleep over that.
Glasgow: H Jones (G Bryce 72); T Seymour, N Grigg, P Horne, R Tagive (N Matawalu 59); A Hastings, A Price (G Horne 55); O Kebble (D Evans 49), F Brown (G Turner 59), Z Fagerson (D Rae 77), R Gray (K McDonald 72), S Cummings, R Harley (T Gordon 50), M Fagerson, R Wilson.
Edinburgh Rugby: B Kinghorn; E Sau, M Bennett, C Dean (G Taylor 62), D van der Merwe; J van der Walt (N Chamberlain 77), N Groom (C Shiel 62); R Sutherland (P Schoeman 40), S McInally (M Willemse 59), W Nel (S Berghan 40), A Davidson (J Hodgson 28), G Gilchrist, L Crosbie, H Watson, V Mata.
Referee: Mike Adamson
Glasgow Warriors: Try: Horne, Hastings; Con: Hastings; Pen: Hastings.
Edinburgh: Try: Groom 2; Con: van der Walt 2; Pen: van der Walt 2.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 0-3; 0-6; 3-6; 8-6; 10-6; 10-11; 10-13; 15-13 (h-t) 15-18; 15-20; 15-23; 15-28; 15-30.