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Edinburgh: Grant and rave

Roddy Grant is in fine form at the moment but was bitterly disappointed that after a great first half Edinburgh failed to win at Murrayfield last Thursday                        Photograph: SNS
Roddy Grant is in fine form at the moment but was bitterly disappointed that after a great first half Edinburgh failed to win at Murrayfield last Thursday Photograph: SNS

A tale of two cities; a game of two halves. Given the recent history of the fixture, it was no great surprise that Glasgow edged out Edinburgh 20-16 in the first leg of the 1872 Cup at Murrayfield last Thursday, but you would have been offered some attractive odds if you had taken a punt on that outcome after 40 minutes of play.

To all intents and purposes, the Edinburgh forwards had won the game by that point, and all that remained was for the Edinburgh backs to decide the margin of victory. The capital pack is hardly the most fearsome in the business, but they had given Glasgow a good old-fashioned doing in the first half, bullying them on, over and off the ball. Their back row had bossed the breakdown - which is pretty much what wins you rugby matches these days.

Small wonder that Roddy Grant wore an ashen expression at the finish. There was a decent debate to be had about whether the flanker actually deserved the man-of-the- match award he was given after the final whistle, but there was no question in his mind that he would swap that bauble for a victory. "I'd give away hundreds of them to win that," he said.

In truth, Grant's prospects of collecting so much as a handful of those accolades looked decidedly shaky until recently. In an Edinburgh pack bristling with international players, he sometimes appeared to be the token journeyman, his role mostly limited to keeping Ross Rennie's shirt warm during the Scotland forward's frequent and lengthy absences from the side.

Yet as Grant was also picked out as the outstanding player in Edinburgh's startling Heineken Cup victory over Gloucester at Kingsholm recently, it seems clear that he has hit form just lately.

"It's gutting at the moment," said Grant of the Glasgow result, "but looking at the bigger picture it is great that I have been playing well. There is always competition for positions here, but this year, especially, the comp-etition is really tough. With Alan [Solomons, the Edinburgh coach], if you don't perform you're out, and if you are in the team you have to keep playing well. I think that has helped me."

All very well, but Edinburgh still lost last Thursday, and things are hardly likely to get any easier this week when they pitch up at Glasgow's Scotstoun ground on New Year's Day for the return match. Now in his fifth season at Edinburgh, Grant's spell at Murrayfield has coincided with an era of Glasgow domination of the 1872 Cup, and, however patchy their performance last week might have been, the men from the west are now clear front-runners to hang on to it for a fifth consecutive year.

So how could Grant explain Edinburgh's loss of a game that was seemingly theirs for the taking?

"The first-half was good," he admitted. "We went into collisions, we were getting forward, we were playing some good stuff. But in the second half the breakdown was key because we lost a bit of ball there and they capitalised on it. We lost our momentum in the turnovers and that cost us.

"Glasgow played well in the second half, but on our side it was our inaccuracies that cost us. If we had kept going as we did in the first half then there is no doubt we should have won the game and closed it out. I suppose it was a mixture of the two factors."

Of course, there was also the freshness factor. Fourteen of the 15 Edinburgh players who went out against Glasgow had also started against Leinster just six days earlier - on the same evening that Glasgow's game against Treviso was postponed due to a flooded Scotstoun pitch. As Edinburgh appeared to be running out of gas towards the end of the match, the obvious conclusion was that Glasgow were enjoying the benefits of their unexpected pre-Christmas break.

Not so obvious to Grant, though. "I don't know about that," he shrugged. "In derby games I don't think it really matters. There is so much at stake that it shouldn't really make a difference one way or the other. I don't think it was a factor."

Edinburgh can, however, take comfort from the pattern of their recent back-to-back games against Gloucester. Embarrassed, if not quite humiliated, in their 23-12 loss in the first match at Murrayfield, they turned the table on the English side one week later by winning 16-10 away from home. Something similar would suit Grant this week.

"We just have to do the basics right and if we play to our strengths we will be good again," he said.

"Our inaccuracies at the breakdowns and our knock-ons released the pressure on Glasgow. They are a good side and if you give them opportunities then they will take them. We just have to make sure that what we do is 100% clean and efficient.

"As soon as the whistle went we were absolutely gutted. The immediate thought was of winning over there and winning by enough to get the cup."

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