Glasgow Warriors 7
STUART BATHGATE @ Murrayfield
IF Edinburgh keep winning 1872 Cup games like this, Richard Cockerill will eventually have to accept that they are no longer underdogs whenever they meet their Scottish rivals. Two tries from Duhan van der Merwe – both interceptions from Adam Hastings – accounted for most of the difference on the scoreboard, while the boot of his fellow-South African Jaco van der Walt provided the rest of the points.
Just six points ahead at the break after dominating the first 40, Edinburgh were up against it for a while in the second half, but they had already begun to regain momentum when Glasgow captain Callum Gibbins was sinbinned. A penalty and a converted try soon followed, and they stayed in control for most of the time after that to claim four valuable points in their bid to get into the play-off places in PRO14 Conference B.
Glasgow are still top of Conference A and well on course for the play-offs, but they will have some difficult thinking to do over Christmas before the return match at Scotstoun next Saturday. Some of their problems may be easily rectified, but the fact that they are without their first-choice hookers, Fraser Brown and George Turner, for the next couple of months threatens to be a nagging difficulty.
A Van der Walt penalty opened the scoring after eight minutes of almost constant pressure from the home team, then, as Glasgow started to mount what would have been their first real attack, Van der Merwe picked off a Hastings pass intended for Nick Grigg and ran in the first try of the game from around 70 metres. The Glasgow stand-off’s intention had been intelligent enough, as he sought to draw the defence just before passing, but he appeared not to have noticed the winger lurking so close to Grigg. Van der Walt converted to put Edinburgh’s advantage into double figures.
Cockerill’s team had not started at an extraordinarily rapid tempo, and yet the Warriors appeared stunned by what had happened to them, showing little sign of cohesion in attack. They went further behind midway through the half when Van der Walt was on target with another penalty, and from the restart were fortunate to escape a yellow card when DTH van der Merwe took out Darcy Graham in the air.
When Graham conceded a penalty in his own 22, the Warriors went to touch then drove the lineout, and for a moment a score was in the offing. But good work from Stuart McInally and Pierre Schoeman helped stop the drive and win a scrum, which – further evidence of how far on top Edinburgh were – resulted in a penalty for them.
A couple of teasing kicks by Hastings were more promising for the Warriors, both resulting in lineouts when Graham and Kinghorn carried into touch. The defence was able to mop up the danger on both occasions, but Glasgow were soon back on the attack, and opened their account four minutes from half-time when, with advantage being played, Pete Horne caught a lob over the top from his brother George and flopped down. Hastings’ conversion made it 13-7 at the break – a somewhat narrower lead for Edinburgh than their dominance of most departments of the game had deserved.
Encouraged by that score, Glasgow resumed after the break in sharper, smarter fashion, displaying the sort of swagger that had been notably lacking in the first half. As the pressure increased close to the Edinburgh line, it seemed just a matter of time before the Warriors would score again, but when Hastings slipped what might have been a scoring backhand pass to Van der Merwe, the ball was just too low and the winger failed to gather.
That was after 10 minutes of second-half action; 10 minutes in which a short burst by McInally had been almost Edinburgh’s only incursion into their opponents’ half. They needed to regain the momentum, and they did moments later when a swift counter-attack by Van der Merwe and James Johnstone ended up with the centre being halted a few metres shy of the line – and with Gibbins being sinbinned for killing the ball.
Van der Walt put his team two scores in front with the penalty, and five minutes later added a conversion after Van der Merwe again intercepted a Hastings pass and sprinted down the left wing for his second try. That made it 23-7 as the final quarter began, and after having their backs to the wall for a spell Edinburgh were again well in the ascendancy.
Dave Rennie’s response was to take Hastings off as one of a raft of changes, but even the attacking prowess of substitutes such as Huw Jones and Niko Matawalu was unable to make much of a difference. Jones did come close to a late score from a chip into the in-goal area, but he knocked on as he slid towards the ball in a bid to beat the defence to it.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Graham, J Johnstone, C Dean, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally, W Nel, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, L Hamilton, H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: D Cherry, A Dell, P Ceccarelli, C Hunter-Hill, L Crosbie, N Fowles, S Hickey, J Socino.
Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour, N Grigg, P Horne, D van der Merwe; A Hastings, G Horne; O Kebble, G Stewart, S Halanukonuka, R Harley, J Gray, A Ashe, C Gibbins, M Fagerson.
Substitutes: K Bryce, J Bhatti, D Rae, T Swinson, C Fusaro, A Price, H Jones, N Matawalu.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Van der Merwe 2. Cons: Van der Walt 2. Pens: Van der Walt 3.
Glasgow: Try: P Horne. Con: Hastings.
Scoring sequence: 3-0, 8-0, 10-0, 13-0, 13-5, 13-7 half-time, 16-7, 21-7, 23-7.
Yellow card: Gibbins (Glasgow) 55min.
Referee: M Adamson (Scotland).