Glasgow gleaned only a bonus point from their visit to Meadowbank, though through the middle phase of the Celtic League match it seemed that they would gain more than that. The visitors led for more than 50 minutes, and it was only in the endgame that Edinburgh snatched two tries for victory.
That one point, though, was enough for Glasgow to know that they will surely be back in European rugby’s top flight next season, contesting the Heineken Cup. They now have a five-point lead over the Borders, who lost to Gwent Dragons tonight by 10-54.
Technically, the Borders could still deny Glasgow. To do that, however, they would have to beat Munster with at least four tries and, moreover, overturn a points-difference deficit of more than 200.
Glasgow were leading by 17-5 going into the final quarter. But Edinburgh sprung the best try of the match, scored by Marcus di Rollo after Simon Webster, Alastair Kellock, and Tom Philip had all contributed much to the lead-up.
With injury time looming, Glasgow were struck with two damning blows. First Sean Lamont and then Joe Beardshaw were sin-binned, and almost as soon as Glasgow were down to 13 men Joel Brannigan ploughed over in the right corner. It was not to be the occasion for Jon Petrie, Glasgow’s captain, to celebrate his record-equalling 124th appearance.
Afterwards, Hugh Campbell, Glasgow’s head coach, calmly summed up the match in a few words. "It was a poor performance by both teams," he remarked. "I was disappointed the way we played and how it finished. It was frustrating to lose that try late on when two were sin-binned."
Yet he added a positive note. "I prefer to have come here and won in style," he commented. "I think we are capable of doing that."
It was, as the coach said, a match in which both teams played below their best. Perhaps the weather influenced it, with a drizzle for much of the game. Whatever the reason, the contest had few high points.
Glasgow could well look back and wonder how they lost the game. They ought to have made more of the amount of ball they stole off Edinburgh’s lineout throws. Indeed, they had more scoring chances, but it was Edinburgh who made more of what they had.
Early on, an interception break by Dan Parks thrust Glasgow into the Edinburgh 22. That position was lost in a popped scrummage.
Then shortly before the interval Lamont was denied in front of the posts after Alistair Warnock had knocked on in goal. That unleashed a phase of furious Glasgow pressure on the goal-line, and Edinburgh had to draw deep on their defensive spirit to survive.
Midway in the second half, after a Parks try and conversion had taken Glasgow to 17-5, Sam Pinder struck a cruel kick into Edinburgh’s left corner. Andrew Henderson followed up to claim possession barely a yard from the goal-line, but again Glasgow could not exploit it. A try then, with at least a 17-point lead, would surely have taken Glasgow too far ahead for Edinburgh to come back.
Pinder’s experience midway in the first half summed up the game. In the space of barely two minutes the scrum half threw three dreadfully loose passes, but almost immediately, after Stuart Moffat had set up a ruck just inside the home 22, Pinder escaped to run in for the opening try. Parks duly converted. But five minutes later, after Glasgow had needlessly conceded a penalty, Edinburgh won the consequent lineout, and the forwards drove over for a try by Andrew Dall.
Those were the only scores of the first half, with Glasgow ahead by just two points. But it would have been a much different scoreline if either Glasgow had exploited two other good chances or if Warnock had kicked any of his three goal attempts, two penalties and a conversion.
Early in the second half Parks stretched the Glasgow lead with a penalty goal. He then struck the wrong side of a post with another, but he added his try in 58 minutes, intercepting Webster’s pass that was intended for Hugo Southwell. Parks added the conversion for the 12-point lead, but five minutes later Webster ran back a speculative kick, igniting the best in Edinburgh. Kellock carried on up the right, and Philip’s break sent di Rollo through for a try that Warnock converted.
That was not the turning point for Edinburgh. That moment was six minutes later when Lamont was sin-binned, apparently for a late tackle. Yet it seemed that Lamont had made contact before the ball was kicked.
Unquestionably, the decision was harsh. But worse was to follow for Glasgow, when Beardshaw, too, was yellow-carded for killing the ball as Edinburgh hammered the visitors’ line.
Within seconds, Edinburgh profited from the extra numerical advantage when Brannigan, newly arrived as a substitute, slipped through on the narrow side of a lineout maul for a try in Glasgow’s right corner. Warnock converted from the touchline, and Edinburgh were ahead for the first time.
Play stretched on into eight minutes’ added time, and even with Lamont back on the field Glasgow could not find the means to snatch the lead back, though Parks was not far wide with a drop-goal attempt.