West of Scotland...29

NEVER has professional rugby in Glasgow been more poignantly illustrated than when Dave Barrett, the veteran West of Scotland stand-off, stepped up to take the conversion of James Craig's hat trick try in the dying seconds.

Craig's effort, a demonstration of the youngsters' will to go through contact as well as sprint for it, had brought West to within two points of GHK and Barrett had not taken any kicks in the game so far.

``He wanted to accept the responsibility,'' said West backs coach Sandy Service. ``There was a lot at stake.''

What was at stake was the money his team-mates would earn if the kick sailed through - and through it went. It may not supply the down payment on a new house, but the kick was worth #15, the sum West are paying each of their players per league point.

In the dressing room afterwards, Barrett was to be seen lifting up a pair of boots, looking deep inside, and asking: ``Come on, where is it then?''

Talk of the filthy lucre is a diversion though, and this was new Glasgow rugby, played under the new rules. It was a scrappy but at times hugely entertaining game with acres of space due to the new ruck interpretation which sees more bodies going to ground, and a game that proved that a competitive edge is back in the city' rugby. Should either of these clubs want to train as hard as Melrose then they, too, could get near the top.

There's a naivety, mind you, that a Borders side would never have. Running from crazy places, far too nice in the rucks, lack of real creativity in midfield, the inability of either side to clear the ball quickly from breakdown, a plethora of mistakes, and a real jewel in the dazzling young talent of winger James Craig, who is on a rugby scholarship.

Two well-drilled packs fought it out big style from the kick-off, George Breckenridge banged over an early penalty, but just as soon young Craig intercepted a loose pass from Nicky Barrett and he was away. GHK stand-off John McLeod had a neat and tidy game, and his break set up a ruck from which Murray Wallace, who had another fine game, crashed over.

Guy Perrett was the ruler of the lineout, and a piece of possession at the touchline was fed by West into the centres where, thanks to a host of dummy runners, GHK's defence was so bemused that West centre Ian Steel ran in unopposed. Two more tries from GHK, the first from Fergus Wallace and the second from Aly Common, gave GHK what looked to be an unassailable lead of 24-15 at the break.

After half-time, the rich promise of the first 40 disappeared despite Harri Bassi's crunch tackling, a punch-up in the front rows, Gordon Bulloch's impressive head of steam on the charge, and West of Scotland's finer technique up front with neat ball transference under pressure, John Lonergan an example, while both the Wallace brothers strutted their stuff, with Scott Hutton, for GHK.

Referee Rob Dixon, of Madras, had some petty infringements to contend with all game, and perhaps another sign of professional rugby, and the attitude of supporters, came as a shout of ``Let them get on with it ref'' was heard from the sponsors' bench as the neutral touch judge had spotted a foul. Those on the sidelines want the game to flow.

With Fraser Stott and Cammy Little as scrum halves the game will do just that, but a pass from Little was dropped by Hutton for West's next try, James Craig's second, which Richie Craig converted. A superb break from GHK's McLeod was supported by Hutton and the ball was taken to the try line by Paul Minto round some slipshod West tackling for the score. The final act came with Craig's third try, through and round a few bodies to get the ball down.

There were too many missed tackles, but I watched this same fixture two years ago and what a difference in pure rugby terms. Both teams will be worth watching when they really get into gear.

With Shade Munro still to come back, and prop Neil Kopu to arrive at GHK, Glasgow has some mouth-watering stuff to come.

GHK - G Breckenridge; G Caldwell, H Bassi, N Barrett, A Common; J McLeod, C Little; G McIlwham, C Docherty, E Logan, K Wilson, W Brill, S Hutton, M Wallace, F Wallace.

West of Scotland - R Craig; J Craig, A Bulloch, I Steel, T Greenshields; D Barrett, F Stott; S McGregor, G Bulloch, D Jamieson, G Perrett, G Douglas, D McLeish, J Lonergan, J Shaw.

Referee - R Dixon (Madras).

SCORERS: GHK - M Wallace 1t; F Wallace 1t; A Common 1t; P Minto 1t; G Breckenridge 3c, 1p. West of Scotland - J Craig 3t; I Steel 1t; R Craig 1p, 2c; D Barrett 1c.