‘Worrying absence of attacking style and quality’
If Gregor Townsend was at all perturbed by his Scotland side’s lack of assaulting effectiveness in 2020, his see to Murrayfield to take in the season’s first 1872 Cup derby between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors would have done little to treat his concerns.
These derby matches are frequently viewed as trial matches for the nationwide group, with the 6 Nations coming into focus. However, it’s a slightly false narrative with a growing number of Scotland’s crucial players – Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray, Chris Harris, Sam Skinner – playing outside of Scotland.
Indeed, there was little bit from his home-based gamers to thrill Townsend and his backroom group in the Murrayfield stands.
You hoped in a video game woefully brief of quality, one minute of sparkle may make the distinction, but perhaps it was more fitting that a blunder yielded the match-winning score. Brandon Thomson’s wild pass didn’t provide Sam Johnson a possibility. The loose ball was hacked forward and Edinburgh substitute Magnus Bradbury had the ability to ground the ball to rating as Edinburgh eventually ejected a 10-7 win.
Glasgow have a problem at 10. Adam Hastings is out with a long-term injury and has actually agreed to sign up with Gloucester in the summer.
Because arriving in Scotland in 2017, Thomson has provided little to suggest he can employer a game of rugby on top level. A terrible last-gasp penalty miss expense his team triumph last month versus the Dragons and he had a similarly woeful miss in front of the sticks on Saturday.
When a group has no confidence in its kicker then decision-making is clouded, as when Ali Price missed an incomparably kickable charge in favour of a fast tap in the second-half. His team came away with nothing.
Fly-half is a problem that needs addressing, however Glasgow coach Danny Wilson will take some morsels of convenience in defeat. Sometimes, his team’s defence was excellent, especially when withstanding an extended duration of Edinburgh pressure near their own line in the opening quarter.
The performance of Richie Gray on his return from injury was hugely motivating, the veteran lock surviving a lot of work and demonstrating the old line-out prowess lives and well.
Wilson and Townsend will be enthused by the good form of Huw Jones, who continues to offer reminders of the presents that make him, on his day, one of the most terrible assailants in the game. He’s not quite the Jones of old, the one who rupture on the scene in a blur of try-scoring brilliance, however the self-confidence to back himself to find the gaps appears to be returning.
Those positives do not mask the overall picture though. Glasgow have actually won 2 from 9 in the Pro14 this season. That’s the very same return as perennial no-hopers Zebre, whom they lead in the table courtesy of two bonus-points.
They trail Conference A leaders Ulster by a colossal 35 points having played a video game fewer. Warriors objected to a Pro14 last just 20 months ago, but their descent given that then – even permitting the pandemic and all the obstacles that has brought – has been stark and worrying.
Defence coaches Calum MacRae and Kenny Murray would no doubt have actually been satisfied with what they saw from their teams, one largely nullifying the other.
However, as much as Richard Cockerill bristled post-match at the recommendation his team was one-dimensional, Edinburgh do not offer the range in attack they did when they were choosing off huge results in the Pro14 and in Europe.
Much of this can be traced back to the diminished influence of Bill Mata. Think back to Edinburgh’s finest performances recently and you’re likely to keep in mind an outrageous offload or informing intervention from the big number 8.
The Fijian is constantly a ready employee and is undoubtedly a significant man nowadays, but the magic that defined his finest screens has been missing out on given that in 2015’s World Cup.
It’s maybe a sign of the shift in power in Scottish rugby that Glasgow are able to take positives from an 1872 Cup defeat while Edinburgh, in success, are left searching for top equipment.
In a cool adjustment of the Pro14 schedule, next weekend Glasgow and Edinburgh will not face Benetton and Zebre however rather take on each other at Scotstoun in the 2nd instalment in the 1872 Cup series.
The possibility of Glasgow or Edinburgh achieving anything of note in the Pro14, or in Europe, this season looks remote, but these video games are still essential, especially for Townsend. He requires to see something from his big gamers in these games.
Scotland start their 6 Nations campaign versus England at Twickenham on 6 February. Their only hope is to have all their big gamers in a position to deliver the efficiency of their lives.