The Magners League will feature a host of derby delights this festive season but only one can lay claim to being rugby’s original.
While the Christmas Eve clash between Aironi Rugby and Benetton Treviso is the league’s newest derby fixture, Glasgow Warriors versus Edinburgh is the oldest, and not just in Magners League terms.
The two sides first met as far back as November 23,1872, some 138 years ago.
The inaugural inter-city match even pre-dated the Scottish Rugby Union, which wasn’t formed until four months after that first Edinburgh and Glasgow meeting.
Even in the history of football in its widest sense of the word, the contest is unique. International matches in the association and rugby codes may have been played between Scotland and England – with the two countries meeting at Raeburn Place in March 1871 and at Kennington Oval a year later – but never had non-international representative teams met until that first Edinburgh versus Glasgow encounter.
Edinburgh won that first-ever contest by just a single score, although rugby was a very different game in those early days.
Teams were still made up of 20 players each, with 11 of the Glasgow side coming from Glasgow Academicals, alongside eight from the West of Scotland and a sole member of Glasgow University. Edinburgh spread their selection wider, drawing from Wanderers, Craigmount, Academicals, Royal High School FP, Merchistonians and Edinburgh University.
That inaugural encounter was played at what was then Glasgow Academy’s ground at Burnbank, near Kelvinbridge. It was effectively a trial for the Scotland team for the international against England the following March.
The game’s first hero was Tom Marshall, the Middlesex cricketer who scored the only points of the match courtesy of a drop goal.
Initially, the inter-city derby was contested twice a season on a home and away basis, although it soon changed to a once-a-season affair. Amazingly, for more than a century the winners of the inter-city match had no tangible reward, but in 1996, with the series well into its 13th decade, sponsorship produced a trophy.
Only six years later the district championship was deemed superfluous in the Scottish rugby calendar. By then the inter-city match, in a series interrupted only by two world wars, had been contested 122 times. Edinburgh had won exactly half of those games, and Glasgow had triumphed 42 times, with 19 matches drawn.
The ancient series has since been rejuvenated through Scotland’s two professional teams and the much younger trophy has been polished up and revitalised as the 1872 Cup.
That trophy is currently in the possession of the Warriors following back-to-back victories last season – results that played a significant role in Glasgow’s push to the inaugural Magners League Play-Offs.
Glasgow triumphed 25-12 at Firhill almost exactly a year ago before winning the return fixture at Murrayfield 22-15 on January 2, with the man who led them to those sweet successes looking for a repeat set of results this month and next.
Glasgow's Ali Kellock lifted the 1872 Cup last season
“The derbies are always great games to be part of, especially when you win,” Glasgow skipper Ali Kellock told his club's website ahead of this season’s fascinating double header.
“We were really happy with the performances we delivered in both of last year’s matches, and we’ll be going all out to give our supporters another couple of victories.
“The Greaves Sports 1872 Cup is a real showpiece for Scottish rugby and I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t sampled the rivalry and atmosphere before to get themselves along to Firhill and Murrayfield for what should be two fantastic occasions.”
And while Kellock and co will be looking to match their achievements of last season, Edinburgh are determined to make amends for two of their most disappointing moments of an otherwise impressive campaign.
The capital city outfit finished just four points outside the Play-Off places last time out, with those successive defeats to their bitter rivals proving crucial when it came to their hopes of making the top four.
“The games are just around the corner now and, as usual, it will be a huge week for everyone in Scottish rugby,” added Edinburgh captain Roddy Grant on edinburghrugby.org.
“The players on both sides really look forward to these matches, and the intensity definitely goes up a notch when local pride is at stake.
“It’s going to be a massively exciting couple of weeks; exactly the sort of challenge you want to be involved in as a player. From an Edinburgh point of view, we’re desperate to perform a lot better than last year and get our hands back on the trophy.”
The story so far
Since the inception of Celtic League and Magners League rugby, Edinburgh and Glasgow have met on 14 occasions, with each side winning seven of those fixtures.
Glasgow boast the highest score and biggest winning margin thanks to their 46-6 triumph in December 2005, although Edinburgh weren’t far off that record when they won 39-6 three years later.
Edinburgh won the first two Scottish derbies in the Celtic League but Glasgow have been the victors in each of the last three contests.
Jan 2 2010 Edinburgh 15 Glasgow Warriors 22
Dec 27 2009 Glasgow Warriors 25 Edinburgh 12
Jan 2 2009 Glasgow Warriors 25 Edinburgh 20
Dec 26 2008 Edinburgh 39 Glasgow Warriors 6
April 11 2008 Glasgow Warriors 23 Edinburgh 14
Dec 28 2007 Edinburgh 35 Glasgow Warriors 31
Dec 22 2006 Glasgow Warriors 34 Edinburgh 27
Sep 29 2006 Edinburgh 14 Glasgow Warriors 9
Dec 4 2005 Glasgow Warriors 46 Edinburgh 6
Sep 30 2005 Edinburgh 28 Glasgow Warriors 12
Dec 27 2004 Edinburgh 18 Glasgow Warriors 12
Sep 18 2004 Glasgow Warriors 12 Edinburgh 10
May 7 2004 Edinburgh 19 Glasgow Warriors 17
Dec 27 2003 Glasgow Warriors 16 Edinburgh 25
Monday December 27 @ Firhil kick off 5.35pm
Sunday January 2 @ Murrayfield kick off 5.35pm