EDINBURGH may be holders but they started yesterday’s 1872 Cup first leg as underdogs and seemed to thrive on that tag yet again as they delivered their best performance of the season to outmuscle Guinness Pro12 champions Glasgow and take a useful lead into Saturday’s return at Scotstoun.
The inter-city showdown is viewed as a semi-trial and Scotland internationalists contributed all 34 points in front of a 23,642 crowd which was comfortably a record for the fixture and a home domestic game for Edinburgh.
Tries from centre Matt Scott and flanker John Hardie, plus 13 points from the boot of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne gave Edinburgh the four league points, with a Mark Bennett try and two Finn Russell penalties not even enough to muster a losing bonus for Gregor Townsend’s Pro12 champions.
There was a change to the Glasgow line-up named last week as skipper Jonny Gray failed to come through his head injury assessment and was replaced in the second row by his Scotland team-mate Tim Swinson. Centre Peter Horne took on the captaincy.
As the big crowd filtered in and the atmosphere built ahead of kick-off, the match ball was brought on to the field by Roddy Grant, the stalwart Edinburgh flanker and former Scotland sevens star whose retirement from the game at the age of 28 with a knee injury was confirmed on Boxing Day.
It was Glasgow who made the early breakthrough in the seventh minute when Leone Nakarawa turned over possession and sparked a wave of attacks which stretched Edinburgh both ways before Bennett made the decisive break and managed to get over at the right of the posts.
Russell would have been disappointed to miss the fairly straightforward conversion and Edinburgh responded well to the early setback and were level five minutes later when Dougie Fife and Cornell Du Preez combined to allow Scott to hit the right angle and score on the right.
Hidalgo-Clyne was more accurate with his conversion attempt and the home side were in front. In the 27th minute Hardie was penalised for handling in the ruck just inside his own half and Bennett stepped up to try his luck from long range but the penalty was wide.
Roared on by the bulk of the crowd, Edinburgh began to build their most dominant mini-period of the game so far and got their reward in the 31st minute when Irish referee John Lacey penalised Glasgow for not rolling away and Hidalgo-Clyne gobbled up the three points from 25 yards out and central.
Edinburgh were well worth the lead and Glasgow couldn’t have any complaints if they had stretched it out to eight points just before the break, however the penalty that came was right on the edge of Hidalgo-Clyne’s range and he couldn’t make it.
Glasgow got the first scoring opportunity of the second half and, from close range, Russell would have been relieved to finally open his account and cut the deficit to two points.
Much had been made in the build up of Glasgow’s superior backline but the home centre pairing of Scott and Irishman Mike Allen was linking well and edging the midfield battle with Horne and Bennett up to this point. The pair interchanged beautifully to create an opening which Glasgow could only stop illegally and Hidalgo-Clyne made no mistake from 35 yards out to make it 13-8.
An Edinburgh offside then gave Russell another easy chance to peg the lead back again, before the seesaw continued when Glasgow collapsed the maul and Hidalgo-Clyne was on target once more.
An excellent kick to the corner by Allen forced Glasgow to concede the lineout right on their line in the east stand corner and Edinburgh turned the screw with the maul but the visiting defence held out.
As the game ticked towards the last ten minutes the growing Glasgow frustration was tangible as they failed to find any fluidity and Edinburgh refused to buckle.
The decisive moment came in the 70th minute when stand-off Phil Burleigh pinged a perfect kick to the corner after a high-tackle penalty. The lineout was secured and a ferocious driving maul speared through the Warriors pack, with openside Hardie getting the touchdown before leaving the field with a head knock.
Hidalgo-Clyne banged over the extras to create a 12-point gap – the same as they managed in the corresponding victory last season which won them the cup.
Russell tried to create something by going airborne when he floated a kick into the corner but Edinburgh left wing Tom Brown pouched well and Glasgow wing Taqele Naiyaravoro was penalised for tackling his opposite winger in the air. The same pair clashed again moments later when the Fiji-born Wallaby colossus bore down on the right-hand corner and Brown earned one of the loudest cheers of the day as he put his body on the line with a thunderous tackle to bounce Naiyaravoro into touch.
It was in many ways the match in microcosm as Glasgow’s big reputations were denied by Edinburgh’s bravery and commitment.
Bennett threatened in the dying seconds but he too found no way through down the right and it was Edinburgh who celebrated a famous and thoroughly deserved victory.
Edinburgh: Jack Cuthbert, Dougie Fife, Michael Allen, Matt Scott, Tom Brown, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Phil Burleigh, Rory Sutherland, Ross Ford, WP Nel, Anton Bresler, Alex Toolis, Mike Coman, John Hardie, Cornell Du Preez.
Replacements: Neil Cochrane, Allan Dell, John Andress, Ben Toolis, Jamie Ritchie, Sean Kennedy, Greig Tonks, Andries Strauss.
Glasgow Warriors: Stuart Hogg, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Mark Bennett, Peter Horne, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Grayson Hart, Ryan Grant, Fraser Brown, Sila Puafisi, Leone Nakarawa, Tim Swinson, Ryan Wilson, Chris Fusaro, Adam Ashe.
Replacements: James Malcolm, Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Greg Peterson, Simone Favaro, Ali Price, Sam Johnson, Lee Jones.