GRAEME MACPHERSON @ Scotstoun Stadium
THE expected storyline about a player coming back to haunt their former club in the derby duly came to pass. Just not the one everyone had been talking about.
All eyes had been on Ali Price on the occasion of his return to Scotstoun following his loan move from Glasgow to Edinburgh but his appearance didn’t turn out to be the big talking point that had been widely forecast.
There were a few pantomime boos when his name was read out – prompting the stadium announcer to urge the home crowd to “give a warm welcome to all our former players” – and then again when he was substituted, although there was also a smattering of polite applause as he headed off the pitch having not really had a significant influence on proceedings.
Instead it was another Ally – Miller – who again burnished his growing reputation by claiming his second try in successive weeks to settle an intriguing if not enthralling 1872 Cup first leg in Glasgow’s favour.
The incessant rain clearly had a detrimental effect on both teams’ desire to play a passing game but ultimately the contest was settled by Edinburgh’s second-half indiscipline that peaked with Grant Gilchrist’s yellow card. With the second-rower in the sin=bin, Warriors made full use of the man advantage to score two tries and ultimately take the game away from Edinburgh to move to the top of the United Rugby Championship table for Christmas.
The capital club will look to chase down a 12-point deficit in the return at Murrayfield next weekend but senior coach Sean Everitt warned their discipline would need to be better.
“The second half we were on top again and then came some individual lack of discipline and we conceded eight penalties in the last 24 minutes,” he said. “If you concede eight penalties against a team that mauls really well in these conditions you are going to be up against it and the yellow card didn’t help. We will look at it and deal with the individuals concerned.”
It was scrappy, attritional stuff for long spells, with Glasgow’s try the undoubted highlight of an opening period that never really caught fire.
Warriors were already ahead through Ross Thompson’s penalty when they cracked open the Edinburgh defence after 18 minutes, Stafford McDowall and Josh McKay combining to provide George Horne with the chance to squirrel his way through.
The scrum-half was held up just short of the line but Glasgow were quick to get the ball out again to the backs, Huw Jones and McDowall working the ball left where McKay shoved a basketball pass over to Kyle Rowe who scored in the corner. Thompson couldn’t convert from almost on the touchline.
That lead, however, wasn’t really representative of the overall direction of play as Edinburgh grew into the game to effectively take up extended residence in the Glasgow 22.
Only some stout defence and impressive discipline from Warriors kept their visitors out for so long but all that pressure had to finally tell and it did when Edinburgh landed a try of their own after 34 minutes.
Phase after phase of possession carried them to within inches of the line and WP Nel was the man to finally stretch to place the ball over the line. It was no more than Edinburgh deserved.
Ben Healy made a comfortable conversion then was presented with the chance to give his team a half-time lead. It came as a result of the sort of errors that would have had Franco Smith tearing out his immaculately coiffed hair in frustration, with Thompson booting the restart straight out the park and Glasgow then conceding a scrum penalty.
Healy’s hoof from halfway had the distance but not the direction as it drifted just wide of the posts to leave the game evenly poised at the break.
Glasgow were fortunate to still be in front but that advantage was wiped out early in the second half when Sione Vailanu strayed offside and Healy couldn’t miss from right in front of the posts.
The Warriors maul has lost its potency in recent weeks but this time it wasn’t even able to get up and running. Glasgow kicked for the corner and twice in quick succession Edinburgh pinched the line-out.
Scotstoun screamed for the team to kick for goal when Warriors were awarded another penalty but instead they stuck to their processes and it paid off. With Gilchrist in the bin for consecutive illegal disruptions, the home side finally got the maul firing to send Johnny Matthews over for his ninth try of the season.
Miller, though, would claim the pick of the bunch, the former Edinburgh player again demonstrating a winger’s pace and guile after taking a pass from man-of-the-match McKay and haring over the line and under the posts.
“I’m really proud of how the guys stepped up,” said Smith, wearing a remarkably festive jumper. “We know Edinburgh are a fantastic side, and we don’t expect less next week. They will want to redeem what happened tonight, but we’ll enjoy Christmas first.”
Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; H Jones, S Tuipulotu, S McDowall, K Rowe (B Afshar 72); R Thompson (T Jordan 58), G Horne; J Bhatti (N McBeth 58), G Turner (J Matthews 30), Z Fagerson (O Kebble 58), S Cummings (M Williamson 79), R Gray (G Peterson 58), A Miller, S Vailanu (H Venter 76)
Edinburgh: W Goosen (E Boffelli 70), D Graham, M Currie, J Lang (M Bennett 35), D van der Merwe, B Healy, A Price (B Vellacott 70); P Schoeman (B Venter 70), E Ashman (D Cherry 70), WP Nel (D Rae 76), G Young (M Sykes 76), G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson (L Crosbie 50), B Mata
Referee: Sam Grove-White
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Rowe, Matthews, Miller; Cons: Horne 2; Pens: Thompson
Edinburgh: Tries: Nel; Cons: Healy; Pems: Healy.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 3-0; 8-0; 8-5; 8-7 (h-t) 8-10; 13-10; 15-10; 20-10; 22-10.
Yellow cards –
Edinburgh: Gilchrist (65 mins)