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RUDDERLESS EDINBURGH ALL AT SEA

Edinburgh Rugby:17 (3) Glasgow Warriors: 21(16)



I struggled manfully out of my sick bed to view the latest Edinburgh Rugby nightmare on BBC ALBA (man flu, thanks for asking).  It didn't take long before I came to the conclusion that I needn't have bothered.  Even the silky tones of the Gàidhealtachd's greatest rugby pundit, the legendary Hugh Dan MacLennan, were not enough to lighten my mood.

The Irish government, in a shameless piece of grand larceny, is next year ripping off the Scottish 'Homecoming' concept in order to lure back some of their hefty diaspora.  I didn't think it achieved that much, but they disagree.  Those expat Irish folk who fall for the state-subsidised blarney will then be, to quote a sceptical Gabriel Byrne, shaken down for any spare change on their person at prestigious events such as the 'Redhead Convention' in Crosshaven village. Who has the most freckles?  Who has the longest red hair?  Who cares? I'd settle for knowing how our Irish expat coach has managed to turn last season's Heineken semi-finalists into a loose collection of individuals who seem to have all the rugby sense of particularly inept carrots.

A hefty holiday crowd in the East stand saw early scores through the impressive Maitland's try from a close-in attack with Laidlaw answering with a penalty.  Ruaridh Jackson's smart mini-dummy created the space for his winger to dart through.

Glasgow, clearly, were trying to slow up Edinburgh's ball.  They needn't have bothered, though, as the wide game seems to have been largely removed from the Gunners' repertoire this term.  Nevertheless, it was an amazing piece of whistling to card Peter Horne for tackling Scott without the ball on the halfway line on 13 minutes.  A penalty, absolutely.  But neither he nor King seemed to be going anywhere.  Tonight's rather whistle happy referee Paterson seemed to have no doubt, however.  Presumably he wanted to lay down an early marker in the derby atmosphere that he would take no nonsense.  If I were Glasgow, I'd have been somewhat aggrieved.

I'm not, though, and it was good to see the Embra men smash the visiting scrummage on 21 minutes to give Laidlaw a simple penalty chance.  Which he missed.  And the Gunners as a whole failed to score any points at all during the power play, by marked contrast with Glasgow's performance later in the match.

Jackson grabbed a Scott pass off a quick tap penalty on the Embra ten metre line and scooted over untouched in the corner for Glasgow's second touchdown. Just one of those things. He hit the post with the conversion but Glasgow were now a converted score up on half an hour.  And they were playing the match in the Embra half.

Dougie Hall looked to have crossed for try number three on 34 minutes as discipline deserted the home defence.  But The Dingwall Dynamo was to be disappointed, as the referee adjudged Jackson guilty of crossing when clearing out the preceding tackle.  Again, that looked like a tough call on Glasgow.    And Visser had to look lively to clear a DTH kick behind the defence immediately afterwards. But Glasgow were rewarded with a kickable penalty off the subsequent lineout and Horne made no mistake.  The half ended with another kickable penalty to Glasgow and a warning from the referee to Greig Laidlaw about persistent infringement.  That said, I didn't see much wrong with Geoff Cross' conduct on this occasion.

No matter, Horne's second success left the score 13-3 Glasgow at the break.  They had been been streets ahead of their opponents in every aspect of the game and it was difficult to see the Gunners suddenly finding some cohesion in the second half.

It was same again immediately after the break, with Glasgow punching massive holes in the Gunner defence from the off.  A great chance under the posts went begging before the ball was shipped quickly wide to where the home defence was short.  DTH was - correctly - adjudged touch in goal, though, and this particular bullet was dodged.  It was an ominous sign as Glasgow maintained their domination of field position. 

Glasgow again were unlucky not to cross on 49 minutes in a breakout that started when no-one in the black and red had the gumption to play scrum half at an attacking ruck.  Glasgow rather apologetically wandered over to nick the ball, Maitland and DTH added explosive pace and the move ended only with Grant being penalised five metres out.  There was a zip and ambition about the Warriors' play that was completely absent in their opponents.   It was little surprise when Jacobsen was carded for a silly ruck offence on the Embra five metre line with half an hour left.  Glasgow were looking for the bonus and took the scrummage.  Pyrgos snapped up loose ball at the back of the untidy scrum and nipped over for the try.  Jackson's conversion drifted wide, but the visitors were now a handy 21-3 up.  The question was now not whether they would win, but by how much as the Glasgow front row had a field day against seven men.

Then something amazing happened.  Edinburgh scored a try! A tantalising glimpse of what this side can do if they put their minds to it.  Laidlaw, now moved out to 10, kicked beautifully behind the defence off quick ball.  Scott gathered and his offload found ginger openside Roddy Grant, who barged over under the posts for the converted try that gave the home side some hope at 10-21 down.  Speed of thought and delivery, accuracy, pace and good support work - all the qualities that had been utterly lacking for the preceding hour. 

Glasgow nearly notched their bonus straight away and they will need to be more clinical against better sides if they are to make it to the playoffs and be successful when they get there.  DTH beat around seven weak tackles and offloaded to the supporting Hogg in acres of space, but the pacy threequarter dropped the ball with a try looking certain. Short handed Edinburgh defended the attacking phases well, though, to deny the bonus.  And they earned a penalty on 67 minutes as they broke out off turnover ball won by Atiga. Kicking to the corner was the right decision, but the execution at the subsequent lineout was poor once again.

Concerted pressure in and around the Glasgow red zone eventually bore fruit.  The pack went through innumerable phases at medium pace, seemingly going nowhere, before the ball was shipped out.  Visser nearly turned provider for Fife, then Steve 'Stevie' Lawrie nearly nipped over before the ball was brought inside for Visser, of all people, to dance through heavy traffic under the posts, Laidlaw converting.  By some miracle, Edinburgh were 17-21 down with five minutes left to go and back in the hunt.  The introduction of Ress at nine, coupled with Laidlaw's switch to stand off, seemed to have added some urgency to the home side's play.

But Edinburgh desperately needed to get out of their half and play the match in Glasgow territory.  The Warriors, though, kept them pinned down and ran out deserved winners in a match that should not have been so close. Glasgow are looking good.  Edinburgh - despite the dead cat bounce in the final quarter this evening - are not.

I hate to say it, but the coach has to go.