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Glasgow Rugby: 16 Edinburgh Rugby: 25

(at Hughenden) Saturday 27 December 2003



Do you remember the Christmas holidays of your youth? Christmas carols, the Queen's speech, and, of course, the traditional last-minute postponement of the inter-city game due to unforecast severe wintry weather. Happy days. Sadly, global warming seems to have put paid to the latter now, with this being about the third year in a row that the festive clash between Glasgow and Edinburgh has actually gone ahead as planned.

A number of Glasgow folk had made the trip to Murrayfield the previous week to support their east coast rivals in the Celtic Cup final; a gesture that was warmly appreciated by the Gunners and their supporters alike. They were not even asked rhetorically whether they'd had their tea. Yet while there was a fair amount of festive cheer - and an excellent atmosphere - among the holiday crowd at Hughenden in ever-trendy West End Glasgow this afternoon, it goes without saying that that sort of nonsense was in short supply on the pitch. Of course, it would be a poor reporter indeed who wittered on about this being "a derby match, so form went out of the window."

This was a derby match, so form went out of the window. The Gunners may be recent Celtic Cup finalists, and sitting on top of their Heineken pool, but Glasgow have a lot of talent at their disposal, and they were determined to use it today. Indeed, Glasgow have come on to a rich vein of form themselves, comfortably dispatching Montpellier in the Parker Pen earlier in the month, and will be looking to take that momentum into the New Year when they will be taking on Saracens in the next round.

Perhaps it was a good job that this game took place after Christmas, otherwise Santa would have thought twice about delivering presents to the Macfadyen, Murray (Prestonpans contingent), and Mather households; the naughty triumvirate seeing yellow at various stages during the game. It was not an overly dirty game, but there was a fair bit of niggle on show at times.

It wasn't long before the Ed's Christmas presents - a shiny new "Mr Men" notebook and amusingly-shaped novelty pen - were pressed into action as Edinburgh started the game with a series of attacks, putting Glasgow under severe pressure inside their own 22. Brendan Laney missed a drop goal on four minutes, but got it right second time round on the seventh minute after concerted Gunners pressure set up by a strong breenge by Hogg.

In retrospect, it might have been better had the ball been spun across to take advantage of what looked like a useful Edinburgh overlap, because although it was all Edinburgh at this stage, a fine Morrison break set up ruck ball for Glasgow close to the Gunners' tryline five minutes later. Parks sent an inch-perfect bomb to the opposite corner, and Glasgow lock Andy Hall beat Craig Joiner to the ball to plunge over for the touchdown, Parks' conversion taking the score to 10-3 Glasgow.

Jackie Joiner came close to a touchdown five minutes later after a great Southwell break, before Laney pulled back a penalty on 20 minutes. Parks replied in kind shortly afterwards, to set up Glasgow's best period of the game, with solid Gunners defence being required to keep Morrison from grounding for a score at one stage, and the Glasgow backs playing some excellent rugby. The pressure told going into injury time, with a Parks penalty and drop goal taking the half-time score to 16-6 to the home team.

The duration of the Edinburgh motivational huddle prior to the second half kick off clearly did the trick, as the Gunners kept it tight from the restart and mauled well before Glasgow infringed to give Laney his second penalty of the day, Macfadyen heading for the sin-bin on his 100th appearance for Glasgow. Ali Dickson had been putting in his usual solid game up to that point, taking the ball up to good effect, but got caught at the bottom of a ruck on 50 minutes and was taken off with a worrying looking knee injury, Tom Philip coming on in his place.

Young "Tank" didn't take long to announce his arrival, with a scintillating break putting Blackadder away on a charge, almost leading to a Di Rollo try. The super sub came close himself on 59 minutes, before slicing through the Glasgow defence from close range for a try under the posts, converted by Laney to level the scores with 20 minutes left.

Though Edinburgh had roared back into the game, they were under the cosh shortly afterwards when Scott Murray was carded for some extra-curricular activity. Only an excellent Webster tackle saved a certain Glasgow try shortly afterwards. But the Gunners were holding out, with Hines performing heroically in set-piece and loose play.

The turning point came just on full-time, when Mather was sin-binned for apparently elbowing Blair in the face. Laney stroked the penalty over, then the Edinburgh 10 ensured that Glasgow would have to cross the whitewash to win by knocking a drop goal over after the Gunners' pack had driven a maul 20 metres up the Hughenden hill.

With the Gunners up 22-16 in injury time, a clever Laney kick almost led to a try for Southwell in the corner, only alert play by Bulloch clearing the danger. But Laney killed the game shortly afterwards with another penalty on the stroke of no-side to give the Gunners a 25-16 victory. Not pretty, perhaps, but it was a gutsy win. As a result, the Gunners are heading back up the Celtic League and are back to winning ways in time for the resumption of the Heineken in a fortnight's time.

MAN OF THE MATCH:

ANDY HALL, while NATHAN HINES gets the editorial vote.

A well-deserved fortnight's New Year break for the Gunners before they are back in action in the Heineken on Friday 9 January for another must-win game, when Leeds come to Meadowbank, complete with former Gunners Gordon Ross and Duncan Hodge. For non-season ticket holders, tickets are available through the Edinburgh Rugby website, the ticket hotline on 0870 272 6600, or on the night.

The following Friday, 16 January, Glasgow will be hosting Saracens at Hughenden in the Parker Pen, kick-off 7.30. Edinburgh fans are encouraged to go along to support the Warriors in this crucial tie.

Read Bill Lothian's verdict in the Evening News: http://www.sport.scotsman.com/rugby_superteams.cfm You know where to find Glasgow's view.

Scorers: Edinburgh: Philip 1T Laney 2DG, 4P, 1C
Glasgow Hall 1T, Parks 1DG 2P 1C


Edinburgh team: Southwell; Webster, Di Rollo, Dickson, Joiner; Laney, Burns; Jacobsen, Hall, Smith, Hines, Murray, Blackadder (C), Hogg, Taylor. Replacements: Di Ciacca, Mathieson, Kellock, Cross, Blair, Warnock, Philip
Glasgow team: Moffat; Kerr, Maclure, Henderson, Lamont; Parks, Beveridge; Murray, G Bulloch, Kelly, Hall, Ross, Mather © Macfadyen, Petrie Replacements: Lawson, Harrison, Beardshaw, Reid, Pinder, Howarth, A Bulloch


Referee: I Ramage (Berwick)

Happy Hogmanay!