connacht 29

glasgow 34

Scottish rugby's condition was recently described perfectly by Navjot Sidhu, the Indian cricket commentator, when he suggested: ''Why try to murder someone when they are intent on commiting suicide.''

Not, you understand, that Sidhu was with us on Saturday at the rather bleak setting of Galway's Showgrounds, sitting as it does below the town's cemetery.

The former Test batsman was actually, a couple of weeks ago, describing countryman Saurav Ganguly's tendency to waft his bat instinctively outside off stump and Shaun Pollock, the South African captain's intelligent decision merely to place all his fielders behind the bat, feed the shot and wait.

Under pressure it has become commonplace for Scottish teams to behave similarly, letting opponents simply sit back and wait for errors and that looked happening again as Glasgow showed every inclination to throw victory away in the closing stages of their first knockout match since the re-structuring of professional rugby.

Matt Williams the man who, as Leinster coach, must now try to finish off non-Irish interest in the Celtic League, acknowledged as much when I suggested to him after Saturday's game that Glasgow's kamikaze streak had come through, albeit he feels Friday's will be a meeting of two very similar sides.

''I think we've got a bit of that in us too,'' he laughed. ''I really can't say too much after our performance against Newport last night.''

That had been a remarkably similar game, as Leinster, like Glasgow, threatened to dominate before relaxing and letting the opposition back in.

Certainly when Glasgow turned it on after conceding an early lead, they could hardly have been more impressive.

After James McLaren plucked Tommy Hayes' miss pass off his toes to burst through for the first try, then Jason White thundered in for the second, a huge win looked possible.

Yet, as Richie Dixon, Glasgow's coach, later admitted, they then seemed to believe the game was won and allowed a side developing a formidable reputation at home, the chance to recover.

The right boot of Eric Elwood, Connacht's 33-year-old former international stand-off, having been as reliable as ever - a first minute drop goal followed by six further successes from six shots at goal - a try sparked by Wayne Munn's break on the left and finished by Ted Robinson, his fellow winger, on the right, made the half-time margin just one point.

Still, with a strong wind to help them after the break, Glasgow should have had nothing to fear and tries by Gareth Flockhart, and Tommy Hayes should have made them secure.

Elwood, though, had struck again in between times, leaving only 12 points in it.

Consequently Roly Reid's sin-binning, allied to the withdrawal with a shoulder injury of James McLaren, caused just enough defensive disruption for Munn to force his way in under the posts.

That set up a furious finish which saw Glasgow hanging on desperately for the remaining 12 minutes of normal time, plus six nerve-jangling minutes of injury time, contributing all the while to their own problems with aimless kicks which allowed Connacht to keep up the pace.

As Steph Nel, the home side's South African coach observed, had his men realised earlier that they were capable of a bit more than relying on Elwood's boot to maximise the impact of the sort of frenzied approach Celtic sides are famed for, they might just have done it. Certainly every time their wingers got the ball they caused Glasgow problems.

However, even would-be sporting suicides benefit from the support of their kinsmen at moments of crisis and this was a fine example.

During last summer's Lions tour, on the advice of Jason Leonard, a veteran of three such trips, Gordon Bulloch and Scott Murray toured the ground after their first appearance to savour the experience of having passionate travelling fans. On Saturday the hooker seemed to appreciate even more the backing his side had received among the capacity crowd at this little ground.

''With the exception of playing Edinburgh, we see only the occasional Saltire when we are down in Wales, but to have so many standing together egging each on to make more noise and more noise...what a difference it makes,'' he said.

That noisy bunch may have numbered only 100 or so, but Scotland's leading rugby players now seem to be finding out who their friends are.

Then again a bit of self-help - Glasgow have survived longer in this competition than any of the sides they currently head in the Scottish/Welsh League - is also making it a lot easier for the rugby public to warm to them.

Connacht G Duffy; T Robinson, D Yapp, T Allnutt, W Munn; E Elwood, O Reddan; D McFarland, T Kearns (J McVeigh 51-74 min), R McCormack (P Bracken 51), D Browne, R Frost, J Charlie (P Neville 40), J O'Connor, M Swift (C Rigney 55)

Glasgow R Kerr; J Steel, J McLaren (A Bulloch 64), A Henderson, M Bartlett; T Hayes, A Nicol; G McIlwham, G Bulloch, L Harrison (E Murray 75), N Ross (S Griffiths 75), J White, G Simpson, G Flockhart, R Reid

Scoring sequence (Connacht first) 3-0, 6-0, 6-7, 9-7, 9-14, 9-17, 9-20, 12-20, 19-20 (half-time) 19-27, 22-27, 22-34, 29-34

Scorers. Connacht. Tries Robinson (40), Munn (68) Cons Elwood (40,68) Drop goal Elwood (1) Pens Elwood (3, 20, 38, 58) Glasgow. Tries McLaren (10), White (22), Flockhart (52), Hayes (63) Cons Hayes (10, 22, 52, 63) Pens Hayes (27, 33)

Referee N Whitehouse (WRU)