International flanker Ross Rennie today rallied his Edinburgh Rugby side for one last attempt to crack their Firhill bogey when they head west to tackle Glasgow Warriors in the second leg of the 1872 Cup on New Year’s night.
The game will be the last rugby derby at the home of Partick Thistle football club as, from next season, Glasgow will relocate to revamped facilities at Scotstoun which has been redeveloped as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Rennie, who was only 18 and still to earn the first his 11 Scotland caps when Edinburgh last tasted victory along the M8, at Hughenden, in 2004, said: “We need to get the monkey off the back going through there.”
Former Edinburgh Academy and Stewart’s Melville flanker Rennie concurred with the general view that a glorious chance had been blown to claim domestic bragging rights when two late tries conceded resulted in a 23-23 tie at Murrayfield on Monday. But he is adamant the situation can be turned around and that a win would set the team up nicely for their home game with Ulster on Friday week. Indeed, two victories would propel Edinburgh up the domestic league before 2012 is seven days old. Currently Edinburgh lie ninth in a closely packed middle in the Rabo Direct Pro 12.
“It was very frustrating to end up drawing,” said the man who scored his third try for Edinburgh as early as the second minute and virtually before Glasgow had touched the ball.
“We came out very well and for the first 15 minutes were looking good. Then Glasgow did their thing and we didn’t control ball well enough to get across the gain line. To get them going backwards was difficult. That’s where they got a foot in and edged their way back in until, at the end, we were lucky not to lose the game.”
Referring to the boost provided by a second-half try brace from Tim Visser that put Edinburgh 23-10 ahead, Rennie admitted few could have predicted it would mark the end of the Black and Reds’ points haul: “We lulled a bit after Tim’s two tries and it was a bit disappointing we couldn’t control the game and win after that.”
At the same time Rennie insisted lessons had been learned: “We can take something from the match in terms of looking closely at the way they manage games well. They were very good at breakdown as ever.
“We need to address our line-out a bit and stop making silly errors. We were running in ones rather than together and because of that they were getting turnovers.”
With the Firhill pitch much narrower than Murrayfield Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley will surely be looking to abandon the search for width in attack in favour of extra ball-carrying physique. However, when Edinburgh do tie in the opposition they can be lethal as acknowledged by Rennie: “It is about managing the game well, applying pressure and keeping it on. When we did that we looked pretty dangerous. There is a lot we can learn and take forward.”
Competition is particularly hot at open-side and this observer feels that Rennie, with his dynamic approach that contributes a high tackle count as well as good support running and linkage in confined areas, is benefiting from slugging it out with colleague Roddy Grant for a regular start.
Typically, the player himself was keener to put team matters first. “I’m not sure I was on top of my game. I didn’t quite feel game fit, I have to say. There’s a lot of things to work on.”
Surely, though, the impending start of the Six Nations Championship must be on the radar of a player who has been used sparingly by Edinburgh since returning from the World Cup partly because of Grant’s outstanding presence in the side but also because of the threat he is likely to pose to John Barclay for a place in Scotand’s next starting line-up.
“I first play for Edinburgh and try to win because if you are winning then the whole team is noticed more. Then you see what happens after that,” added Rennie who was much more comfortable paying tribute to two-try marvel Tim Visser.
“Tim Visser is an incredible man, a great finisher,” said Rennie of someone who is developing into the complete attacking force as shown by the way he rounds markers out wide and how, in a move that could be vital at narrow Firhill, he can burst through midfield off the shoulder of his stand-off.
Edinburgh name their team tomorrow and indications are that, following a record Murrayfield crowd of 13,240, Firhill will sell out its 11,000 capacity.