Edinburgh Reivers....33

Glasgow Caley.........3

aTHE curtain came down on one of the greatest representative careers in Scottish rugby history yesterday when Scott Hastings announced, following Reivers' convincing win which clinched the Tennent's Velvet Tri-Series, that he has agreed to terminate his professional playing contract.

Though he did not absolutely rule out an international comeback, his decision, in order to pursue his business career and - something of a condemnation of the current Scottish domestic situation - to play more rugby, effectively marked the end of a Test career, during which he made a record number of Scotland appearances.

Having reached 65 - caps that is - when coming on as a replacement against England two years ago, he has far from retired however, pledging the remainder of this season, and all of next, to his club Watsonians.

''I've been fortunate enough to make an arrangement with Edinburgh Reivers and the SRU to terminate my contract,'' said the 34-year-old. ''This decision lets me get back and play some rugby.

''Those in the superteam squads who have not been selected have had very little rugby and there was the possibility that I would play only six or seven more matches this season. Now I can look forward to playing for Watsonians against Melrose in the Scottish Cup on Saturday.

''It is time to move on. I'm likely to join my brother Gavin in business at Hastings International, and there will probably be an announcement by Watsonians later in the week about developments there, too.

''I've always said I wanted to play a bit more for fun towards the end of my career, and now I can do that without the pressure of trying to get picked at a higher level.

''Nothing has given me more pleasure than to see Jamie Mayer get capped this season (in the No.13 jersey which for eight years Hastings made his own), having watched his career develop at Watsonians, and I hope I can now help others such as Marcus Di Rollo.

''Who knows,'' he said, when asked whether he could envisage playing for his country again. ''Paul Burnell and Damian Cronin have done funny things, but I wouldn't like to think I would be thrown into an international three years from now.

''However, at least I'll be playing regularly now. If you don't get the opportunity to play, you can't be selected. It was a great thrill to captain the Barbarians against Leicester in front of 16,000 people at Welford Road last week, and (having also played for Watsonians on Saturday) I've probably played more rugby in the last eight days than in the previous four months.''

The irony that he had been forced to bring Hastings into the starting line-up yesterday, the day after he had told the squad of the player's decision, was not lost on coach Ian Rankin, who took the opportunity to pay his tribute to the 1990 grand slammer.

''I told him he could tell me to get lost, but I wanted him to play because Hugh Gilmour had 'flu. His attitude was as good as it has been all the time he has been on the sidelines this season,'' Rankin observed.

As team captain it was fellow Lion Alan Tait's decision to let Hastings lead the team out, and although he was the only player on the pitch without a number on his back, he was still the most instantly recognisable figure as he continuously attempted to get involved in things from full back.

Twice in the second half he almost provided the perfect ending by coming close to creating scores, first when chasing his own chip ahead before being brought down by Tommy Hayes, then instinctively volleying the ball soccer style beyond the try line to see Shaun Longstaff just beat Cameron Murray to the touchdown.

Those were fairly rare moments of excitement in a game played on an extremely difficult surface, despite the covers that had protected Gala's Netherdale from the worst of the elements for most of last week.

''It was very hard to get going because of the conditions and we never really got out of third gear, but it was a professional performance,'' said Rankin.

''There was only one team out there that really wanted to win,'' admitted Glasgow Caledonians coach Keith Robertson. ''Reivers gave us a lesson in good, hard rugby, whereas we must have been up to 20 plus turn-overs.

''We've now got to decide whether we're going to go down to the Welsh Challenge Trophy to compete.''

That a visiting pack which boasted six internationalists, was so thoroughly out-fought by a Reivers eight containing only two caps, was the key to the game.

Not for the first time Scotland's newest overseas recruit, John Leslie, frequently found himself utterly isolated as he tried to make things happen.

Meanwhile, brother Martin earned the man-of-the-match award as part of a home back-row which led the way in providing a sense of sharpness and urgency, and dominated territorially.

The clinical goal-kicking of Duncan Hodge, with seven successes out of nine attempts, helped their effort, although it was his try early in the second half, after good driving by Mather and Darren Burns, that secured the win.

The occasion was, though, far more memorable for marking the end of an era in Scottish rugby with Hastings' decision to return to the amateur ranks, than for providing compelling evidence that, as the New Year gets underway, the immediate future is any brighter for Scotland's professional superteams.

Edinburgh Reivers: S Hastings; T Stanger, A Tait, C Chalmers (J Kerr 76 mins), C Murray; D Hodge, I Fairley (G Burns 80); R McNulty (P Wright (78), S Brotherstone (G McKelvey 65 ), B Stewart, D Burns (C Hogg 67), I Fullarton, C Mather, I Sinclair (A Roxburgh 73), M Leslie.

Glasgow Caledonians: T Hayes; S Longstaff, I Jardine (C Simmers 67), J Leslie, D Stark; L Smith, F Stott; G McIlwham, G Bulloch (K McKenzie 22 -26), W Anderson (A Kittle 63), S Grimes, S Campbell, G Flockhart (J Petrie 63), J Shaw (G Simpson 51), M Waite

Referee - C Thomas (Wales)

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh Reivers first): 0-3, 7-3, 10-3, 13-3 (half-time); 20-3, 23-3, 26-3, 33-3.

Scorers: Edinburgh Reivers - Tries - Mather (8), Hodge (49), Kerr (78); Conversions - Hodge (8, 49, 78 mins); Penalties - Hodge (14, 29, 69, 73). Glasgow Caledonians - Penalty - Smith (3).