Under the wan light of a full moon it was Edinburgh that unearthed their inner animals to win the first of three 1872 Cup matches against their oldest rivals. The home side needed the league points more than Glasgow and it looked that way on the field.
The home team triumphed exactly as you’d expect, through the scrummaging power of their forward pack who milked penalties almost at will and the finishing power of their winger Duhan van der Merwe who intercepted two passes from Adam Hastings, one in each half, and filled his boots both times to walk off with the man of the match award.
Jaco van der Walt had a tricky time in open play but the flyhalf can kick with uncanny accuracy and he added two conversions and three penalties to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Glasgow were beaten at the breakdown, struggled for quick ball and rarely looked like scoring. Only a moment of magic late in the first forty from the telepathic Horne brothers found a way past an Edinburgh defence that was wonderfully assured. Late in the second half when Glasgow finally created an overlap for Stuart Hogg on the left flank, Henry Pyrgos intercepted, again, to prevent what looked like a certain try.
He was excellent throughout, pinpoint with his box kicks, even if you wish Pyrgos would move the ball a bit quicker. Chris Dean also had a good showing in the backs as did Hamish Watson in the forwards but credit goes to Pierre Schoeman because the prop had his opposite number Siua Halanukonuka on toast throughout. Expect D’arcy Rae to start for Glasgow next weekend.
Edinburgh fulfilled Richard Cockerill’s game plan with such precision in the opening quarter of this match that even the little English Grinch must have struggled to wipe the smile off his face. His team racked up a 13-0 lead almost before Glasgow had got hands on the ball, stunning the visitors with the ferocity of their work in the contact zone and playing with the sort of control and composure that they display at their best.
The scoring was as South African as a braai. Van der Walt kicked two penalties and added the conversion after winger van der Merwe picked off a pass from Hastings to Nick Grigg around his own twenty-two metre line and went the length to score the opening try of the match after 12 minutes, beating Hogg’s cover tackle to the corner.
Only after going 13-0 behind did Glasgow wake up and work their way back into this match, if only slowly. The spark that light the fire under their backsides came from Jonny Gray when the big man won a turnover. At the very next break Gray was waving his arms up and down, urging greater efforts from his own team and they seemed to respond.
Having been pegged back inside their own half for much of the opening quarter Glasgow enjoyed some territorial advantage in the second quarter with a couple of attacking lineouts, one maul was turned over, another throw was overcooked but eventually the two Horne brother dovetailed beautifully to throw the Warriors a life line just four minutes before the break.
With a penalty advantage coming their way, scrumhalf George chipped for brother Peter who took the ball at full stretch over the Edinburgh try line.
Having hardly been at the races the visitors were right back in the hunt at half time having narrowed the gap to a more manageable 13-7.
Glasgow picked up where they left off in the first and a long series of attacks through the forwards was only thwarted when former Glasgow scrumhalf Pyrgos jumped out of the defensive line, forcing Hastings into an ill-advised back flip that missed its intended target and instead rolled harmlessly into touch.
A little later Edinburgh won a turnover when Duhan van der Merwe knocked on. They shipped it wide at the second time of asking, to Duhan van der Merwe who shrugged off Tommy Seymour’s tackle and kicked ahead. James Johnstone collected the ball and was only prevented from scoring thanks to a last ditch tackle from Hogg.
With the breakdown in the shadow of his own posts, Glasgow skipper Callum Gibbins was pinged and carded for being blatantly offside and van der Walt extended Edinburgh’s lead by another three.
The next play was an action replay from the first half. On the attack, Hastings fired a long pass wide, it drifted five yards forward and straight into the arms of van der Merwe who this time only had sixty-odd yards to the Glasgow line.
It seemed cruel but Hastings was yanked from the field just minutes after his second howler of the evening, Peter Horne taking over at ten, and the young playmaker will chalk this one down to experience along with several of his Glasgow colleagues.