64 minutes without a point was nobody’s idea of prime entertainment in a dour first 1872 Cup of 2021 at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Edinburgh’s eventual 10-7 win was deserved, even if handed to them by a terrible Glasgow error. But there was not much to pick over for the Gregor Townsend as he finalises his squad for the Six Nations.
Here’s a few pointers from this game towards Friday’s return at Scotstoun and beyond…
Edinburgh have two of the best front rows in European rugby
The four interchangeable props mean a level of excellence that Glasgow simply can’t cope with if Oli Kebble is missing, and sometimes even when he’s not. Any one of the three hookers available to them augment the props at the scrummage.
It was the foundation of the recent Sale win. The only downside is that when Pierre Schoeman qualifies for Scotland this summer, Cockerill will lose all of them during international windows.
Know when to hold `em, know when to fold `em
As the late philosopher Kenny Rogers once said. Edinburgh could have built a considerable advantage in the first half by kicking just a couple of the flood of penalties that came their way.
They scrummed a few, justifiably as they were on top there. But the lineout was rarely secure, their maul didn’t make a dent in Glasgow, and the visitors’ defence was tenacious.
Richard Cockerill backed his decision-makers afterwards and Mark Bennett said after the entire squad were onboard with the strategy.
Yeah, they would, wouldn’t they? Scoreboard pressure might have made this a very different and less stressful contest. It would have built a foundation for them to bring Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe more into the game.
Expect Edinburgh to kick at goal with far greater frequency on Friday.
‘The edge’ is narrower than it was
Glasgow had a massive penalty count against them, and a yellow card was warranted at some point. Perhaps in the 20 minute first-half spell Edinburgh were camped on the Warriors’ line, or after frequent offences at the scrummage.
But Glasgow got away with it. What kept the game close were the penalties Edinburgh gave away, a lot of them at the breakdown. This reminded one of Scotland’s final Autumn Nations Cup in Dublin, where contesting the ball and getting pinged cost Scotland important field position.
Edinburgh’s breakdown specialists Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson have to operate on the edge. But the signs are that the free-for-all to contest immediately after the lockdown has been tightened and refs are again not so indulgent to the jackals.
One sympathises with players who have every right to be confused. But a slight adjustment needs to be made if Edinburgh and Scotland are not to be defending lineouts inside their 22 so often.
Calls for Danny Wilson to go are ludicrous
A hot take on Twitter asked “how long does it go on?” Well, presumably a whole lot longer than half a season under the logistical and financial constraints of a pandemic.
Glasgow under Danny Wilson remind me of Scotland under Frank Hadden – plenty of guts in defence but hugely error-prone in the opponent’s 22 and lacking confidence in attack generally. How long does it go on? #1872Cup
— Finlay Morrison #SorryIWasOnMute (@FinMorrison) January 2, 2021
Wilson has not had nearly sufficient time nor reasonable circumstances to make a difference. To suggest they need to make a change already is crazy. A portion of the Glasgow support seem to be spoiled and entitled – precisely what they always assume Edinburgh fans to be.
The new head coach can only be judged when he had something like a proper first choice XV available to him. In the meantime, he needs to be cut a good bit of slack.
The last of Brandon Thomson?
Thomson had a solid season as back-up 10 in his first year at Glasgow. However his confidence took a huge jolt with a panicky performance against Dragons early in his second year. It was notable that Dave Rennie barely used him again after that.
With both Adam Hastings and Peter Horne out, Wilson had very little alternative but to play Thomson on Saturday. At times he actually got his back line moving a bit better than Jaco van der Walt did.
But a dreadful missed kick, added to the one that lost the recent game to the Dragons, and a brainstorm of a pass that resulted in Edinburgh’s try might be the final straw.
He’s not being asking to be the distributive genius of Finn Russell. Just, at a crucial point in the game, not to throw a routine pass two yards behind his inside centre would be cool.
I don’t see any reason why Wilson shouldn’t give a shot to young Ross Thompson in Friday’s return. At least he would actually see if he has a viable option there.
Richie Gray showed a lot of his old class
The veteran lock gave a proper schooling to Edinburgh’s young Jamie Hodgson at the lineout, and if Glasgow had stuck it out and sneaked the win, would have been a justified man of the match.
Gray may not be an atypical modern international lock anymore, but he’s still a class operator.
He’s been labouring with one thing and another this last couple of years. But if he got a concerted run of quality games together, he will be a valuable weapon for the Warriors.
Huw Jones was the best back on the pitch
Jones’s switch to full-back was an expedient move, but it seems to have re-energised him. With Edinburgh loathe to bring their two wide strike weapons into the game, it was left to Jones to look most threatening.
At 15, his speed and awareness come to the fore – notably when he spotted himself one-on-one with WP Nel and made the best (only?) clean break of the match.
There’s still some work to do around his kicking, but not much. And Glasgow are able to move him around the pitch to where he can be most effective.