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GLASGOW PREVAIL AGAIN IN THE LATEST INTER-CITY

Edinburgh:24 (17) Glasgow Warriors: 31 (24)



I don't know about you, but I so want to be back watching rugby live.  The thrill of being deafened by Bruce Aitchison on the PA, to feel the collisions on the park and to marvel at WP winning yet another scrum pen.  Hopefully the Covid restrictions will continue to be relaxed and I'll see you in person in Minifield next season.

 

I recently subscribed to a streaming service that shows Sky Sports coverage live in order to watch the Lions in South Afgrica this season.  Somehow, this seems much more of a priority than it has been in recent Lions tours. They certainly show a fair bit of live sport and this morning I found myself watching the Sydney Roosters playing against the excitingly named North Queensland Cowboys in the Australian NRL.  As ever with rugby league, I was struck by the quality of execution of the basic skills. It was also notable that the match was played in front of a very large crowd; substantially higher than the sparse attendance at the previous evening's Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash between the New South Wales Waratahs and the Hurricanes at the SCG.  Both the Waratahs' loss and the public indifference demonstrated the mountain that Union has to climb in Australia.

A former Rooster, Charlie Savala, turned out in the 10 shirt for Edinburgh in the latest Inter-CIty match.  I'm struggling to keep up with what ciompetition we are in at the moment, but I think this was somehow related to the Rainbow Cup.  Like Scotland great Alan Tait, Savala has gone from Union to League and back again.  As this season rather peters out, it was good to see him being given a run in an Edinburgh squad that featured plenty of experience, but some of the new young players that ahave broken through this term, such as Jamie Hodgson, Connor Boyle and 'David' Blain.  Meanwhile, tonight, The King Blairhorn was not only providing cover at 10, but was also marking his century of appearances for the club.

Ultimatately, it was the Glasgow youngsters who shone in a side that looks very like it is rediscovering its old swagger after a tough stretch.  But some of their old timers were to prove key as the visitors showed extra incisiveness in attack and that bit more physicality in defence.  A much changed Glasgow took the field with Warriors legend Rob Harley, The Ginger Ninja, marking his 250th cap.  The highly effective and immensely irritating back five forward is only 30 and probably will hang around for years to come, purely to annoy his opponents.  Adam Hastings turned out at 15 with future Glasgow legend Ross Thompson donning 10.  And the impressive Rory Darge justified my own decision to sponsor him this season, albeit by making his debut for the west coasters.

There were intriguing match ups across both sides - two tyros facing off here, a grizzled veteran up against a promising youngster there.  The Warriors were buoyed by their victory and regaining the 1872 last week, while the Gunners will have been looking for revenge.  The Embramen had managed the impressive feat of dominating the set piece against a side that coughed up an astonishing 27 penalties yet still lost.  That they failed last time out was down to their inability to unlock the enemy defence.  Would Charlie be their darling at BT Murrayfield on a gorgeous May evening?

They certainly seemed to have got the hang of this attacking thing at the outset.  Things got off to a great start from a dark blue and burnt orange perspective.  Off lineout ball, they moved the ball quickly left, then shipped it all the way to the right where 'Big' Bill Mata took it on at pace in traffic.  He stepped the defending Hornito then fed Dean cutting against the grain.  The Sweet Prince beat the defence to cross for a great score - 7-0 Embra on three minutes and already this one was looking like a thriller, with both sides determined to move the ball.

'The Greatest' Schoeman gave away the clearest ruck penalty you are ever likely to see, right in front of the Edinburgh sticks.  Thompson duly narrowed the gap by three with the conversion on 13 minutes.  The Warriors hadn't given up their own penalty habit of last week, though, and they rather belied their physicality with a reluctance to exit the tackle area.  The King duly knocked over his first three pointer of the night on 16 minutes for a 10-3 home advantage.

The Gunners knocked on the restart under pressure from Kyle Steyn, setting up a lengthy set of Glasgow phases in the Edinburgh 22.  They showed great patience and variety until eventually Matt Fagerson went airborne at a ruck on the line to score.  Thompson tied things up with the conversion at the end of the first quarter.  And Hornito broke thrillingly from the wreckage following the restart, combining elusiveness with sheer pace.  Hastings came close to crossing after Horne had been caught, but the Warriors were denied a likely try as Schoeman was pinged for a cheeky pull back on Nick Grigg.  No sooner had the loosehead been carded than Turner bulldozed over the line from the tap penalty and Glasgow were now 10-17 up.  Two tries in three minutes and this match had been turned on its head.

It was nearly another from the restart as Steyn broke and made it as far as the Edinburgh 22 before being caught.  Ally Miller, on for 'Bing' Crosbie, won a crucial breakdown penalty to enable the Gunners to clear the danger and try to regain some sort of control. They kicked the latest Warrior penalty to the corner and sought to emulate last week's maul try hat-trick.  While the visitors did manage to hold the inevitable rolling maul, repeated close in drives eventually saw replacement hooker Mike Willemse dot down on the line.  17 apiece on the half hour with The King's extras and Schoeman returning to the fray. Hastings was beginning to look frisky at second receiver for Glasgow and they were back on the attack in the closing minutes of the half. Fagerson looked like he had managed to score, but he was brilliantly held up over the line by BBM.  They nearly crossed shortly after, Hastings prestigititations looked like they'd conjured up a try for Steyn, but the ball had just drifted forward.  

Hastings did score as the clock had turned red. This time, the pack did the hard work driving to the try line before Hornito found the fullback coming on to the ball at pace.  He rode the tackle and spun over to touch down.  17-24 Glasgow at the break. While the Gunners will have been disappointed to concede late on, it was reward for a Warriors side that was starting to motor.   Edinburgh had rather gone into their shell in the second quarter and would need to get a grip of the match in the second period.

It was as you were immediately after the resumption.  A brilliant Fagerson steal in the loose saw him put the impressive Turner cantering goalwards.  Good scramble defence by Savala denied Grigg what would have been a fantastic score.   But Edinburgh unnecessarily conceded a free kick at linout time, which enabled the Warriors to work their way deep into the home 22.  It looked like Darge had scored a debut try, but Turner had obstructed the attempted tackle by Willemse.  The Gunners were being repeatedly penalised in defence on their own line, though, and referee Brace gave them a warning. Eventually, tiny half back Hornito took advantage of his lack of height to touch down from six inches.  Thompson curled a superb conversion over from the corner to nudge the Warrors into a commanding 17-31 lead on 52 minutes and this one was slipping away from the Embramen.  It felt like it was time to make a few changes in an effort to regain some momentum. Taylor and Shiel duly came on.

BBM turned defence into attack by gathering a loose ball in his own 22 and sprinting off.  Eventually, Tagive managed to snare him in the Glasgow 22 and Hornito forced a knock on to kill the chance. It looked like the match was going to open up further in the final quarter and there would be tries to come as both sides fatigued.

Out of nothing, on 68 minutes, The King in traffic saw Grigg leave a gap in the umbrella defence on halfway.  A half dummy from the big man saw him ghost through the gap and sprint to the line.  He delayed his pass to perfection and put the supporting Shiel over beneath the posts.  24-31 and it was an illustration of what the big full back can do in attack. The Gunners' pack were beginning to dominate at the set piece and the final minutes of this match were being played in and around the Warriors' 22 as the Glasgow pack seemed to be wilting.  But though the Embramen huffed and puffed, the Warriors held out in defence for a thoroughly deserved win, with Man of the Match George Turner exemplifying the power, pace and physicality that saw them over the line with something to spare.

 

PLENTY OF PERSPIRATION, NOT ENOUGH INSPIRATION

Glasgow Warriors: 29 (24) Edinburgh:19 (14)

I don't know about you, but I have all of a sudden discovered that I have always had a soft spot for cuddly Kiwi coach Warren Gatland.  The Lions supremo has duly rewarded Scotland's improved performances since the World Cup with eight Scots selected in the British and Irish Lions' touring party for the forthcoming series in South Africa.  The last time so many got on the plane was 1989.  And we all know what they got up to in 1990.

When I saw nice guy Chris Harris' name on the squad list, I was almost overwhelmed with strong emotions, I don't mind admitting.  That was, in part, because his is a wonderful story, having recovered from a ropey start in international colours to fight his way back to become arguably the most effective defensive centre in world rugby by dint of hard graft and no little skill.  Partly, too, because I had £15 on him to make the squad at 8-1 and am now in the advanced stages of planning my early retirement with the return

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EDINBURGH JUST NOT AT THE RACES

Racing 92: 56 (20) Edinburgh: 3 (3)

When the Gunners play Racing 92, it's always a great excuse to look back at that amazing, Greeg-inspired 48-47 victory at Murrayfield in the Heineken in 2011.  It was, astonishingly, not televised live, but shaky film of the encounter can still be found on YouTube. Both sides looked like they were dead and buried at times during that match, but both fought back, playing exhilarating rugby.  When all hope looked to be lost, they both gave it a lash with no fear.  In the end, it was the Embramen who sneaked it.  There are still a few elder statesmen left from that amazing time, including Grant 'Gilcho' Gilchrist, Henri Chavency and the great Juan Imhoff.  

One Racingman who was not on the carpet in the futuristic Paris La Defense Arena this afternoon was Finn Russell, suspended after his red card during Scotland's recent victory over France.  Last year's losing finalists nonetheless fielded their usual star-studded outfit.  Particularly with

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