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Warriors hold on after dropping their guard

Glasgow posted the 'job done' stickers all over Scotstoun on Saturday evening, but the message in the aftermath was more one of 'work to do'.

 Glasgow Warriors celebrate winning the 1872 Cup
Glasgow Warriors celebrate winning the 1872 Cup

Yes, they claimed a full house of points. Yes, they moved into second place in the RaboDirect PRO12 table, and yes, they retained the 1872 Cup for the fifth year in succession. But it was a performance which fell far below requirements as far as their defensive work was concerned.

No other side had put 30 points past Glasgow in this season's PRO12, but Edinburgh smashed through that barrier with four tries of their own. They capital side headed home with two league points - a try bonus and a losing bonus - and with confidence boosted by a display in which they tore up the conservative script they have been following these past few months and played boldly and with self-belief.

Ultimately, Edinburgh lacked Glasgow's overall class and the visitors will probably concede that they were flattered by a margin that closed dramatically in the last three minutes when smash-and-grab tries by Tomas Leonardi and Tim Visser brought them within three points. But it was still a massive confidence boost for a beleaguered squad - and potentially significant for Glasgow as well as Edinburgh's next two matches are against Munster and Leinster, the Warriors' play-off rivals.

Glasgow will close out their regular-season campaign against Treviso (away) and Zebre (home). The Italian sides occupy the bottom two slots in the PRO12 table, so Glasgow should feel confident of retaining the berth that will give them a home semi-final in three weeks' time, although Treviso have claimed significant scalps in their Stadio Monigo this season, and Glasgow will go there on Friday with trepidation.

They will also hope to go with a defensive structure that does not fall apart as easily as it did on Saturday. "Defensively, we were a mile out," said captain Al Kellock afterwards. "Our defence coach, Matt Taylor, will be giving us a hard time on Monday and he will be right to do so. We don't do that. We don't ship that many tries."

Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend, who turned 41 on Saturday, has certainly had more welcome birthday presents than the experience of watching a 17-point lead shrink to just three in the space of only a few minutes. "We were below the standards we set," was his grim-faced assessment. "We're really disappointed because the number one element in our game is to have an outstanding defence. It was far from that tonight."

Even the most basic statistical analysis tends to expose the lie in the claim that form goes out the window in a derby match. Glasgow have been the better of Scotland's two teams for a considerable time and they had lost only once to Edinburgh in nine meetings before this one. In truth, that pattern never really looked like changing, but there was certainly a sense that the emotional backdrop and the history of the occasion conspired against either side settling into a comfortable rhythm.

If the prospect of winning places on Scotland's summer tour had a bearing for some, there was certainly no detrimental effect on Finn Russell and Mark Bennett, the young Glasgow centres, who showed composure beyond their years. Their performances were also aided by a sublime display by Ruaridh Jackson, the Wasps-bound fly-half who perhaps played one of his best games in a Glasgow shirt.

Townsend smiled at the suggestion that Jackson's cameo had given him a selection dilemma leading into the most critical weeks of Glasgow's season. "That's not a headache," said the coach. "It's great. When you give players opportunities and they take them it is very satisfying to see. It was great for Ruaridh because I thought he played really well."

The crowd, just a little short of 9000 in number, could hardly complain about a nine-try bonanza, ambition aplenty, the odd controversy and an atmosphere intensified by the temporary stands that have been erected around Scotstoun for next weekend's Emirates Airline Glasgow Sevens. "It shows what the future is for rugby in Scotland, and the west of Scotland in particular," Townsend added.

His attention, however, now swings to Treviso. So too, Kellock's, for the captain had only just received the 1872 Cup when his thoughts turned to the next task in hand.

"At this stage of the season you don't get the luxury of celebrating victories," said Kellock. "Our target is further ahead and we have spoken about that on the pitch already. It is going to be very difficult because the added dynamic of two Italian teams pushing for one European place gives them huge motivation.

"Treviso are playing well, especially at home, but we have gone over there and won before. We have fixed some things so we have to go over there and play our own game. If it is good enough we will get the win."

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