Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors
Stunning. Simply stunning. Edinburgh overcame all the odds to record an epic come from behind victory over rivals Glasgow Warriors in the first leg of the 1872 Cup.
Despite having Simon Berghan sent off after only 5 minutes, the hosts battled, and then battled some more, before Chris Dean touched down with only seconds remaining to give Edinburgh the unlikeliest of victories.
Whilst tonight’s clash - the 160thmeeting between the two sides – was, at times, a turgid, error-laden affair, all will be forgotten – especially as the Edinburgh squad celebrated wildly on the full-time whistle.
Edinburgh Head Coach Richard Cockerill – who was coaching in his first 1872 Cup clash – was left immensely proud of his side’s efforts and said: “It’s up there with anything I’ve ever been involved with.
“Firstly, the players deserve the credit because they played exceptionally well under some adversity. They’ve worked really hard since pre-season. We’ve tried to become tougher to play against and I think we showed that this evening.
“At half-time, we just said: let’s stay in the battle – let’s keep doing our job as well as we can. The score was sort of irrelevant at that point, we just needed to keep our heads down.”
Whilst it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and fanfare surrounding the 1872 Cup, the Head Coach was quick to appreciate how crucial the four points could be, come the end of the season.
“I’m delighted to get the four points. I know there is obviously a lot of stuff around the derby and the 1872 Cup, but to get the four points was really important.
“The players had a choice. They had an excuse to lose, and it could have gone either way, but if we had lost by four points I would have been just as proud of the group. Because after five minutes, you would have probably thought we would be struggling.
We stayed in the battle, and if you stay in the battle you have opportunities to win the game. Thankfully we did so. It wasn’t a pretty game, but I’m so delighted with the effort, spirit and passion that the players showed tonight.
“I can’t coach the players to have the will to do what they did tonight – so they should take all the credit tonight.”
Although the full-time result sparked wild celebrations from both fans and players alike, the opening five minutes were enough to cause even the most upbeat of supporters to drop their head in their hands.
Firstly, Glasgow took the lead with barely two minutes on the clock. Huw Jones was the man to punish the Edinburgh defence as he floated over untouched following some early defensive miscommunication (0-7).
Then, came the game defining – or what certainly should have been the game defining moment of the match. As Sam Hidalgo-Clyne lined up a penalty to potentially get Edinburgh on the scoreboard, the referee stopped play to look at an incident at the previous breakdown.
With the crowd watching on in anticipation, David Wilkinson spotted Simon Berghan’s boot striking the head of Fraser Brown – and with that the prop was swiftly given his marching orders.
The crowd were shell shocked, but Edinburgh had no time to feel sorry for themselves. With captain Stuart McInally leading from the front, the hosts dragged themselves back into the clash and Hidalgo-Clyne would eventually nail a penalty to close the gap (3-7).
With both sides battling for possession, there was certainly no shortage of determination on show – as was displayed when both scrum-halves rolled into touch, sparking a short-lived boxing match on the sidelines.
With South-African Jaco van der Walt pulling the strings with what limited space he was given, Edinburgh began to grow into the match offensively. The stand-off’s compatriot Duhan van der Merwe showcased his abrasive power on a number of occasions – however, it was the visitors who looked the most likely to score heading into the break.
As Glasgow secured a lineout only metres out from the Edinburgh try-line, they were held up not once, but twice before the Edinburgh’s Bill Mata jumped on a spilled ball to end the half.
Glasgow began the second-half much improved and set about moving the ball down the wide channels in order to make the most of their man advantage. A wild period of haphazard play resulted in Pete Horne dispatching a penalty to extend his side’s lead (3-10) – however, Hidalgo-Clyne soon answered with a three-pointer of his own (6-10).
When Scott Cummings crashed over the line (6-17), the match appeared to be out of Edinburgh’s grasp, but when replacements scrum-half Nathan Fowles darted across the whitewash it was well and truly game on with 20 minutes still to play (13-17).
Whilst Glasgow had chances to hammer the nail in Edinburgh’s battered and bruised coffin, the hosts repelled the visitor’s various attacks. And, with the clock ticking down it was still, unbelievably, just a four-point game.
As van der Walt kicked a penalty to the corner with time expiring, the hosts exhausted pack set-up a rolling maul which appeared to be going anywhere but forward. However, when the referee signalled that Edinburgh had advantage, the visitors pack appeared to freeze in the headlights, which replacement Chris Dean took full advantage of.
As the centre nonchalantly strolled into the corner to touch down – almost unaware that he’d scored the match winner – he was mobbed by his onrushing teammates. A wild ending to a wild 1872 Cup first leg.