THE third and final 1872 Cup match of the season between Glasgow and Edinburgh is still set to be played despite the fact that the PRO14 have omitted it from their fixture list for the remainder of the season.
The omission comes as no surprise given that the regular season has been cut from 21 games to 16 and that the game between the two Scottish teams traditionally takes place in the last round of fixtures before the play-offs. However, the scrapping of those play-offs and the ending of the league season in a straight final at the end of March should leave the sides ample time to find a mutually suitable date in April or May.
“Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors are currently considering options for a third and final 1872 Cup contest this season in order to complete the three-game derby series, currently tied on one game apiece,” a statement on the Edinburgh website said after the fixtures for the rest of the league season were announced. Richard Cockerill’s side won the first match 10-7 at Murrayfield at the start of the month, while the Warriors won the rematch 23-22.
That second game at Scotstoun culminated in bizarre fashion as, despite leading, Glasgow continued to attack in time added on. Believing the cup was being decided over just two legs instead of the customary three, their players thought they needed another score to win it on aggregate, and in fact stand-off Ross Thompson missed a last-gasp penalty that would have given them a four-point win.
That match on Saturday 16 is the Warriors’ last outing to date, and until the announcement by PRO14 they did not know when their next game would be. Now, though, they can start preparing for a return to action in the postponed game against Benetton in the middle of next month before playing rounds 12 to 16.
“We’re looking forward to having a regular period of games in February and March, re-energised from our recent break,” Glasgow coach Danny Wilson said. “The players showed a lot of character to beat Edinburgh in our last game, and today’s fixture announcement allows us to focus and prepare to build on that performance.”
As was already known, Edinburgh will play their next league game at the Dragons a fortnight on Friday in a match that was postponed earlier this season. They will then have three home games in a row before concluding their season with trips to Connacht and Cardiff.
While the top three in each conference at the end of the regular season would normally all go into the play-offs, this year the two winners will go straight into the final at the end of March. Ulster and Leinster are at present separated by just a point at the top of Conference A, while Munster are nine points clear at the top of B.
Neither Scottish team has a realistic chance of topping either conference, although a top-three place could still be vital as it should guarantee qualification for next season’s Champions Cup. EPCR, organisers of both that tournament and the Challenge Cup, have yet to confirm the qualification criteria for 2021-22, but PRO14 have said that no play-offs will be needed to determine which teams get into the premier tournament.
In previous seasons the fourth-placed teams in A and B have played off to decide which side goes through as the PRO14’s seventh and final Champions Cup representative. This season eight teams from the multi-national league are competing, but EPCR have said that the 24-team format being used this season is solely designed to cope with the plethora of problems posed by the pandemic and will not be repeated.
PRO14 FIXTURES FOR SCOTTISH TEAMS
February: Fri 12: Dragons v Edinburgh (7.35pm). Sat 13: Glasgow v Benetton (2.30pm). Fri 19: Glasgow v Ulster (7.35pm). Sat 20: Edinburgh v Munster (7.35pm). Sat 27: Edinburgh v Scarlets (noon). Sun 28: Leinster v Glasgow (5.30pm).
March: Sat 6: Zebre v Glasgow (1pm). Sun 7: Edinburgh v Benetton (3.15pm). Sat 13: Connacht v Edinburgh (7.35pm). Fri 12: Glasgow v Ospreys (8pm). Sun 21: Dragons v Glasgow (3pm). Mon 22: Cardiff v Edinburgh (8pm).