EDINBURGH captain Stuart McInally is perfectly aware that there will be a backlash from Glasgow Warriors when the two sides meet for the second time in eight days on Saturday in Scotstoun. He would expect no less after his team, playing with 14 men for all but the first five minutes of the game because of the dismissal of Simon Berghan, shocked their rivals with a last-gasp 18-17 win two days before Christmas.
But the Scotland hooker is just as aware that his own side have more to give. A lot more. Yes, it was a remarkable result, and the best club game he has been involved in, according to McInally. Yet he knows that, at least when they keep 15 men on the field, Edinburgh can create a lot more than they did.
As they prepare for the second of this season’s three 1872 Cup matches, Edinburgh’s attitude is likely to be a balance of those two factors: a wariness as they await an onslaught from the home team, who had previously won all 10 of their PRO14 matches; but also a calm self-confidence, arising from that knowledge that they can do a lot more than merely soak up the pressure and hope for the best.
“They’ll be smarting after that,” McInally said. “They’ll want to put it right and will be disappointed with the result given they were a man up for the whole game. But they were going to lose that unbeaten record at some point, so we’re just really pleased with the win.
“It helps us believe in ourselves a lot more. It’s something that we’ve struggled with in past years, that we can compete at the top. Glasgow are one of the top teams in the comp, if not the form team, so it was nice to beat them. It gives us confidence we’re moving in the right direction.
“We’ve had some good wins recently. We’re aware they were against teams in the Challenge Cup while Glasgow were playing in the Champions Cup against statistically better opposition. But it’s nice to come up against a team that were unbeaten in the league and to really put a marker down that we’re here to compete.
“I think we’re still some way off,” he continued when asked if Edinburgh had hit their best form yet. “It was tough with 14 men – you’re used to situations when you’re carrying with pods of three, and after a couple of phases there’s just one guy left. I don’t really feel we put our best game out there in terms of 15 men, but given the circumstances it’ll go down as one of the great Edinburgh wins against Glasgow.
“Best derby win, definitely. I’d say the best club game I’ve been involved in. Just the whole occasion, the atmosphere, the crowd, and then just the task on our hands after the red card.”
We often wonder about any rhetorical flourishes – from the coach at half-time or from the captain on the bench – that might have made a difference when a team performs so well in adversity. For McInally, however, it was not so much what anyone said, as what everyone did that made the difference.
“No big speeches – we just got on with it,” he said. “There wasn’t really that much to be said. No-one remembers what you say after the game anyway. You just all have to give an extra 10 per cent, and that makes up the extra man. At the end, though, I was absolutely hanging.
“There was an excuse there if we wanted it. Fourteen men, everyone expected Glasgow just to rock up and win. We were probably the only people who thought we could do it, so it was really pleasing.
“We have a strong game plan going into these games. We know exactly how Glasgow want to try and play and they’re very good at it and very dangerous. But it can be a downfall if they try and play too much, and I felt they had some good attacks at times, the last pass didn’t stick. On another day against another team, the pass sticks and they win with a bonus point.”