Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors: ‘There’s sometimes a wee bit of niggle’ - Chris Paterson and John Barclay on Scottish rugby’s derby day
The spirit of peace and goodwill to all men does not always extend to the 1872 Cup. The annual festive jousts between Edinburgh and Glasgow can get a little heated as friendships are set aside in the quest to determine Scotland’s top dogs.
Today, for example, is the tenth anniversary of Edinburgh lock Scott MacLeod and Glasgow flanker Chris Fusaro being carpeted by the SRU for a good old fashioned punch-up during a derby at Firhill.
The pair were sent off and suspended after a Boxing Day clash that lived up to its name.
“It was literally as the final whistle blew,” recalls Chris Paterson, who was playing for Edinburgh that day. “They were trading blows and then the whistle went and they just shook hands. Emotions run high I suppose…”
The sides will meet again on Saturday and Paterson will have a watching brief at BT Murrayfield as he works as an analyst for Premier Sports alongside John Barclay, a veteran of these fixtures after spells at both clubs.
The former Scotland pair are both quick to distance themselves from any 1872 Cup shenanigans but, when pushed, even these gentlemen of the game are forced to admit they could be caught up in the heat of battle.
“It wasn’t really my game, needle,” said Paterson. “But I do remember John holding me back once in a game at Murrayfield…
“I was being pinned down, and I’ve got John on one side and Kevin Tkachuk, the Canadian prop on the other side, and they’re both holding me. I’m like ‘Come on lads, let me up’, and nobody let me up, but then John let go first so that was the hand that went free and it managed to catch big Kevin Tkachuk a wee bit. So there was a wee bit of niggle there.”
Barclay, a mainstay for Glasgow for the best part of a decade, recalls a beasting in training after one particularly painful 1872 Cup defeat.
“I remember we got our pants pulled down by Edinburgh at Murrayfield one year and I’ve never, ever had a harder training week; this was back in the days of full-contact all week because ‘that’s why you lost’.
“I remember the game - Jim Hamilton still talks about it – I never got too involved with all that kind of stuff, but there was just ludicrous stuff going on. I remember going into a ruck, when you could legally do this, and I just stood all over Mike Blair. He was like ‘What are you doing?’ and I remember thinking: ‘I don’t actually know, anymore but I’m just going to keep on doing it!’”
Barclay, who hung up his boots in the summer after a spell with Edinburgh, believes something primitive takes hold when the two sides meet and the stakes will be even higher this weekend with both teams at the wrong end of their respective conferences in the Pro14.
“Some of these guys are best friends and they’ll never be more physical and aggressive than in these games,” said the former flanker. “It’s like being in the back garden with your brother having a scrap. All the basics of rugby come out: physicality, aggression...
“And because of where both teams are in the league, this game is huge. One of the teams can take a nudge forward based on this result.”
Paterson agrees: “If you’re the little brother you make it all personal, you make it about this derby and nothing else. If you’re the big brother, it’s about league points and you rise above all the petty squabbling, above the head-to-heads and treat it like any other game and get the processes right.”
Glasgow are probably in little brother mode at the moment as they try to revive a season pockmarked by setbacks. A Covid-19 outbreak in the aftermath of their Champions Cup shellacking at the hands of Exeter caused the postponement of the first 1872 Cup and also forced them to forfeit the points in their next European tie, against Lyon.
Edinburgh have also struggled but will take heart from the impressive comeback win over Sale Sharks in Salford in the Champions Cup.
“Edinburgh took a step forward against Sale,” said Paterson. “The bit they had to improve for me was discipline and they’ve been on the wrong side of the penalty count too often. This time they weren’t.
“If these boxes get ticked there isn’t a lot in it, but I do think that Edinburgh have been more settled in the system and the style of game which has brought a reasonable amount of success.
“Glasgow are slightly changing their game of late. There’s been a more structured game in some ways, but they scored a couple of really good tries of late and showed glimpses against Cardiff away which was excellent in terms of attack, but they’ve probably not had as long together.
“I think Glasgow have had it really hard in terms of players missing through international rugby but also the signings that they’ve made not being available,” added Paterson, pointing to the absence of Richie Gray, Leone Nakarawa, Adam Hastings, Fraser Brown, George Horne, Stafford McDowall and Kyle Steyn amongst others.
“If they can get their players back, fit and on the field to take on Edinburgh, who I’d say are a bit more consistent and had that big win at Sale at the weekend, there’s genuinely not much in it. Edinburgh are probably a bit more settled because they’ve had their players together longer, as a two to three year cycle but also for this season, so my prediction would be a narrow home win.”
Chris Paterson and John Barclay will be joined by Jim Hamilton, Dougie Vipond, Rory Hamilton and Jenny Drummond for the 1872 Cup clash on Jan 2 live from BT Murrayfield on Premier Sports 1 from 2.30pm.
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