Glasgow......14, Caledonia Reds....20


FAREWELL North and Midlands. Hail Caledonia. The New Year urges out with the old and in with the new and the Reds begin 1997 as inter-district champions for the first time in the 44-year history of the championship.

At Murrayfield yesterday Caledonia stunned Glasgow with a try after just 17 seconds and thereafter the men from the west never regained their composure or came anywhere close to exerting the kind of control which would have allowed them to bring the rapier-sharp three musketeers of Logan, Craig and Stark into the equation.

Sadly for Glasgow, after an upbeat European Qualifying campaign, they saved the worst for last. Caledonia, well coached by Ian Rankin and led with distinction by Dave McIvor, were always going to be the toughest of the district nuts to crack. Glasgow manager Hamish Fyfe said so beforehand, and he was right.

Nevertheless, with Caledonia heading the tournament standings and Glasgow coming second, the old order has been overturned.

McIvor, for so long one of the most honest of ``honest sojers'' in the Scottish game, purred in quiet contentment after he had accepted the championship trophy from SRU president Fred McLeod.

The flanker, now in the twilight of a distinguished career, and turning out for fourth division Glenrothes, declared: ``I'm just delighted. After so many years as underdogs and having been on the the wrong end of a lot of serious defeats I can't tell you what it means to have won today.

``But this isn't something which has happened overnight. A lot of hard work by the coaches and the playing squad has gone into this victory.''

Rankin ageed: ``That wasn't just a one-off today. It has taken a lot of hard graft for us to get to this stage and one of the major influences which has got us to where we are today has been David's leadership.''

For Glasgow, seeking to win the championship for the first time in seven years it was a case of so near, yet so far. Along with the Reds they have been the most enterprising of the sides on display this past fortnight, but yesterday they just never clicked.

Before a sizable Murrayfield crowd, it was Shaun Longstaff - a Kiwi who qualifies for Caledonia on grounds of residency - who struck that early and crucial blow. From the kick-off, Glasgow got into a fankle and Longstaff ran in the try from Alex Carruthers' feed.

That was how it remained until half-time - just five points in it and everything to play for. Caledonia had dominated for the opening 15 minutes, then Glasgow came back and the Reds ended the first half camped on the Glasgow line with four quick scrummages that should have produced a try but did not. Both sides were over eager, too tentative by half, and their goal-kickers, Calum MacGregor and Mark McKenzie, were not setting the heather alight either.

Six minutes into the second-half, Caledonia went further ahead with a runaway try by John Kerr. Mark McKenzie had sneaked a tricky twenty-two drop-out and Simon Burns, Longstaff, Carruthers and Kerr swept upfield. James Craig, who had been caught napping by McKenzie on the twenty-two, almost got back to bring down Kerr but the Watsonians wing was in under the posts. McKenzie converted.

A Fraser Stott chip sent Derek Stark in for Glasgow's opening try - all the while being impeded by Kerr. Logan converted, which was just as well for referee Ramage, because a penalty try, with its easier goal kick, would certainly have been in order.

A McKenzie penalty goal provided more breathing space for the Reds and when Longstaff sped in for his second try it seemed to be all over bar the shouting.

With time running out Stark had attacked from deep. He was caught and dispossessed by Rob Wainwright. Grimes began the counter-attack and Smith, Carruthers, Rouse, Burns, and Rouse again, sent Longstaff romping in for the try. It was 20-7 in Caledonia's favour and time was running out for Glasgow.

They threw everything into the last 10 minutes and Craig's scorching pace conjured a try from nothing. Logan converted, but it was never going to be enough. On the day, Caledonia's victory was richly deserved and the toast, coupled with the name of David McIvor, was indeed Hail Caledonia.

SCORERS: Glasgow - Stark 1t; Craig 1t; Logan 2c. Caledonia - Longstaff 2t; Kerr 1t; M McKenzie 1p 1c.

Glasgow - Logan (Stirling County); Stark (Melrose), Sangster (Stirling County), Garry (Watsonians), Craig (West of Scotland); MacGregor (Glasgow Academicals), Stott (West of Scotland); McIlwham (GHK), Bulloch, capt., ( West of Scotland), Robertson (Stirl ing County), Munro (GHK), Norval (Stirling County), F Wallace (GHK), McLeish (West of Scotland), M Wallace (GHK). Replacements - Mackay (Glasgow Academicals) for McLeish (52m), Metcalfe (Glasgow Academicals) for Garry (71).

Caledonia - Burns (Edinburgh Academicals); Longstaff, Rouse (both Dundee HS FP), Carruthers (Kirkcaldy), Kerr (Watsonians); M McKenzie (Stirling County), Simpson (Edinburgh Academicals); Smith (Watsonians), K McKenzie (Stirling County), Herrington (Kirkcaldy), Campbell (Melrose), Grimes (Watsonians), McIvor (Glenrothes), captain, Flockhart (Stirling County), Wainwright (Watsonians). Replacements - Manson (Stirling County) for Herrington (52). Pearson (Dundee HS FP) for Carruthers (80).

Referee - I Ramage (Berwick).