Glasgow snapped two three-match losing runs today – one against inter-city rivals Edinburgh and the other they had slipped to in this season’s Guinness Pro12 before the European break – with a deserved derby victory.
The Warriors will carry a 13 point lead into the deciding leg of the 1872 Cup at Scotstoun on the final weekend of the regular season and, while being be confident of taking the trophy back after two seasons’ absence, for now they will be pleased to have got back to winning ways in the championship.
Tries from Junior Bulumakau, Josh Strauss and Alex Dunbar added to the league woes of Edinburgh, who could only respond with four penalties from Glasgow old boy Duncan Weir on a day when the Warriors’ greater on-field leadership and experience of winning proved decisive.
Edinburgh left wing Tom Brown had led out the team on his 100th appearance for the club but it was his opposite number Bulumakau who was all smiles within a minute of the kick off as, in his first start of the season, he touched down in the right corner for the first score of the match.
Dunbar’s punt through came off the knee of home full-back Blair Kinghorn and the Warriors wing simply had to fall on the ball for a gift of an opening try. Finn Russell was just wide with the conversion attempt and Edinburgh responded immediately with Hamish Watson making one of his trademark dynamic bursts and Glasgow were penalised at the breakdown to give Weir a routine opportunity to peg three points back.
The home side were getting to grips with the game now and starting to ask questions of the Warriors defence. That momentum went up a gear in the 21st minute when visiting prop Alex Allan was sin-binned by Welsh referee Ian Davies for a ruck infringement and Weir was on target again to nudge his side into the lead.
Edinburgh’s resurgence was stalled by a couple of incidences of inaccuracy and, by the time Allan had returned to get Glasgow back to the full complement, the game was being played deep in home territory.
Russell opted to kick to the corner when Edinburgh conceded a penalty in their own 22 and it paid dividends as the resulting maul was finished off by Strauss and the stand-off converted to open up a 12-6 lead as the clock ticked down to half-time.
Warriors ended the opening period as they had started it with a sustained assault on the Edinburgh line. Mark Bennett made a searing break and the visiting forwards had a couple of rumble forwards before the penalty came and Russell stroked over for a nine-point lead at the interval.
Edinburgh loosehead Alasdair Dickinson had been taken off late in the half and the second 40 opened with Glasgow winning a scrum penalty but Russell erred as he kicked dead in goal. Stuart Hogg then carved Edinburgh up like a turkey with a scintillating surge and the scrambling defence gave away a penalty 25 metres out. But Russell’s right boot remained below par and the chance to extend the lead further was spurned.
Russell’s old Scotstoun mate Weir was not so profligate minutes later as he cut the gap to less than a converted try in the 52nd minute.
The kicking duel continued to unfold but took a bizarre twist when the ball fell off the tee during Russell’s run up for his next opportunity. The Scotland No.10 had missed a couple of drop goal attempts in the recent Argentina Test and admitted it was an aspect of his game that required some work. He proved that he can drop a goal under pressure, though, as he picked the dislodge ball up and calmly stroked through the posts.
Edinburgh hit back well and, while they couldn’t pierce the Warriors defence, gained another penalty which Weir gobbled up. Once again the home side failed to back up their good work, though, and Jonny Gray’s charge down on Weir’s kick had the men in white knocking on the door.
Some smart work by Sam Hidalgo-Clyne at stealing from the base of scrum almost had substitute Viliame Mata away but possession was again surrendered.
Glasgow pushed hard for what would surely be a decisive try and they eventually got it when some smart handling put Dunbar in on the left. Russell’s conversion was successful but a rush of blood to the stand-off’s head saw him try a chip and chase under his own posts which almost opened the door for the home side to get back in range for a losing bonus point and keep the aggregate target down but indiscipline at the breakdown relieved the pressure on Glasgow. Edinburgh had one last go and looked to have grabbed a try back but Mata had been held up over the line at the death.
Edinburgh: Penalties: D Weir (4)
Glasgow: Tries: Bulumakau, Strauss, Dunbar. Conversions: Russell (2). Penalty: Russell. Drop goal: Russell.
Edinburgh: Kinghorn, Hoyland, Dean, Burleigh, Brown, Weir, Hidalgo-Clyne, Dickinson, Ford, Berghan, B. Toolis, Gilchrist, Bradbury, Watson, Du Preez.
Replacements: McInally, Dell, McCallum, McKenzie, Mata, Kennedy, Tovey, G. Bryce.
Glasgow: Hogg, Bulumakau, Bennett, Dunbar, L. Jones, Russell, Pyrgos, Allan, Brown, Z. Fagerson, Alainu-uese, Gray, Harley, Favaro, Strauss.
Replacements: MacArthur, Grant, Puafisi, Ashe, Fusaro, Price, Grigg, Lamont.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales).