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Glasgow Warriors: 11 (8) Edinburgh Rugby: 14 (11)

With the benefit of hindsight, it's usually possible to discern some event, often in the middle quarter of the second half, where a match was won or lost.  In the case of this evening's second leg of the 1872, one felt prior to kick-off that the turning point might actually have been Glasgow's selection.  Whereas the first match pitched Edinburgh's forward-oriented philosophy against the visitors' usual twinkle toed wide game, the Warriors selected a side for the rematch that seemed designed to take on the Gunners' strength up front.  So in came more bulk in the pack - albeit Jonny Gray was always going to return anyway and provided a welcome boost - and in came a stand off more suited to a tighter game.  I love watching Finn Russell play, but Duncan Weir is a playmaker who would be a better fit for Solomons-style rugby. I understand he is out of contract at the end of the season too... 

Was this really such a good idea?  Might it have been better to stick to Plan A, move the Embra pack around the park and attack off quick ball?  But that would have required the Glasgow back row to best Edinburgh's breakaways in a contest that they had lost fairly conclusively in round one.  Would the return of Strauss make the difference?  In the end, it so nearly came off for the Warriors but for a phenomenal Edinburgh defensive performance.  The turning point, in fact, probably came just before the interval, when Glasgow were pressing on the Edinburgh line but failed to convert that pressure into points.

Big D and big hearts won this match for the Gunners, true.  But it was big smarts too.  In a second period when they had been on the back foot and struggling for field position, they calmly and clinically worked their way into the Glasgow red zone to put Burleigh over for the winning try with less than five minutes left to run. A Herculean defensive effort followed and the Gunners came away with the 1872 Cup, a 15 point aggregate margin and four precious league points. They currently sit fourth, a mere two points off leaders Scarlets, albeit ahead of Munster and Ulster only on points difference and wins respectively.   The Pro 12 is going to be incredibly tight this season.

Enough has been said about the decision to move this fixture to BT Murrayfield, following the waterlogging of the Scotstoun pitch.  It undoubtedly did give the Embramen an advantage and one can understand the frustration in west central Scotland.  However, life is sometimes unfair and you just have to get on with it. From the outside, it seemed that the Glasgow organisation had done a very good job in difficult circumstances and a little corner of the capital was turned gallus as a result.  The Glasgow side themselves got stuck in and dominated the match for long periods. Particularly in the first period, they won the collisions and bested the Gunners' back row.  Although their scrummage struggled, they were imperious in the lineout.  At the heart of everything that went well for them was Jonny Gray.  His big brother may have the hair, but the wee fellow is a machine.  He was ably assisted by Chris Fusaro, who had a much better outing than last weekend, and the returning Strauss, who carried well before retiring with a head knock. The ferocity of the Glasgow pack seemed to take Edinburgh by surprise, albeit sometimes they overstepped the mark. Ryan Wilson seemingly only just stopped himself executing a head butt when his brain caught up with what his body was up to.  

The Embramen were under the cosh most of the time, but simply dug in and absorbed the pressure.  Not since the great David Leslie have I seen a Scottish breakaway with John Hardie's total lack of concern for his own physical wellbeing.  He was clearly not enduring enough pain in the first half and duly ripped out a large chunk of his own shoulder padding to up the suffering.  Now that's what I call hard.  Meanwhile the unsung Mike Coman and the rather flashier Cornell du Preez put in huge shifts in defence.  

Glasgow started powerfully, taking Edinburgh on in their key strengths of lineout and maul.  Weir knocked a penalty through the sticks after Edinburgh had turned over an attacking lineout but conceded a penalty exiting their 22.  It was all Warriors early on, but when the Gunners made it into enemy territory, they coughed up a breakdown penalty, which SHC converted from the Glasgow 10.  3-3 at the end of an intriguing first quarter.

On 24 minutes, an unusually good Edinburgh kick chase gave Hogg nowhere to go deep in his 22 and he was pinged holding on.  Again, SHC converted the three pointer to put the away side 6-3 up, against the run of play.  One felt that the Embramen had weathered the early storm, their defence looked comfortable and the home side were making unforced errors in possession. 

Then, on 28 minutes, the Gunners won good quick turnover ball and cantered down the right wing.  But with the defence scrambling back - and for reasons best known to themselves  - they looked to slow the pace right down and set up another pod rather than release their backs in space.  WHY?  They were made to pay when a loose kick was snaffled by Bennet, who countered smartly, running the ball back into Embra territory.  Glasgow put in a series of quick pods, gradually working the ball across field to create a two man overlap which released the threequarter for another quality try.  Although Weir missed the extras, on a night when not everything went his way, Glasgow were 8-6 up.

And it should have been more soon after.  When a fine run by Allen in traffic - in another impressive outing for the threequarter - had taken the ball deep into the Glasgow red zone for the first time in the match, excitement got the better of Rory Sutherland.  The tyro loosehead has carried well in attack in recent weeks, but executed an unwise swallow dive rather than clearing a ruck.  The ensuing penalty - one of many on both sides in an indisciplined match - allowed the Warriors to clear the danger.  They then worked their way back inside the Gunners' 22 and pounded the tryline.  But the Embramen's superb maul defence and watertight tackling held out, eventually forcing a penalty after Price had knocked on ruck ball and Blake had gathered in an offside position.  The openside knocked on himself in attempting to cross anyway and Edinburgh will have been pleased to go into the break only two points down.  Would Glasgow come to rue these missed opportunities?

After the restart, Edinburgh had an attacking scrummage after Weir knocked on in attempting to make a mark under little pressure. There's something that feels not quite right about packing down with the primary intention of using your scrum dominance to force the other eight to infringe.  But if you've got it, flaunt it, I suppose, and Glasgow duly gave up the penalty chance.  I really like the relatively recent trend in Scottish pro rugby of supporters scrupulously respecting opposing kickers.  It has proved to be a powerful psychological weapon for the Irish and SHC missed what was a relatively simple effort by his standards.  Weir made no mistake on 53 minutes, mind, his three pointer pushing Glasgow out to a handy 11-6 lead in the middle quarter.

The Gunners needed field position and time seemed to be flying by.  They managed to secure a rare attacking lineout on the enemy 22 and forced another penalty, this time converted by SHC to narrow the gap to 11-9 with 14 minutes left to run.  Shortly afterwards, when a Glasgow surprise lineout had surprised only the Glasgow lineout itself, the Embramen again worked their way patiently into the Warriors' territory.  They kicked a penalty to the corner and drove the lineout, forcing another penalty, which they kicked to the corner again.  A Hardie special on the way?  Instead, the Embramen pounded the Glasgow line then shipped the ball wide.  Burleigh attacked the defensive line, a half gap opened up and the first five eighth barrelled over for a good try.  Although the conversion was wide, Edinburgh were now 14-11 ahead with only four minutes left.

After a couple of minutes passed at scrum time around the Edinburgh 10, Andress was isolated taking the ball up and Glasgow kicked the penalty for holding on deep into the Gunners' 22.  The Embramen's maul defence was outstanding and they calmly and courageously repelled repeated - and I mean repeated - Glaswegian close-in drives. After what seemed like an eternity, Edinburgh conceded a simple penalty.  Big decision this - go for the draw or gamble on the four points? Skipper Gray gambled on the four points, rightly in my view, and we were back to repeated breenging.  There was a moment when Weir and a posse of backs scooted round to the blindside and it looked like the defence would be broken, only for Edinburgh to plug the gap superbly.  Most of the Glasgow team were in or close to the breakdown area but the error had to come.  A maul eventually collapsed, the ball was stuck and the Gunners had prevailed.

What a rearguard effort, what a performance under pressure, what a way to retain the 1872 Cup. But all this will mean very little if it is not followed up with consistent success in lower profile, bread and butter league matches.  The attitude and belief the Gunners have shown in the last two matches have been outstanding.  But the real test is whether they can follow that up against Treviso next Friday, no matter who is in the matchday squad.  A top six placing, and possibly more, is within their capability.  How much do they want it?