Glasgow Caley 24 Pau 46 Caley's bid to salvage their European dream was effectively shattered by the streetwise Frenchmen at Hughenden yesterday.

Off-colour Reds went into battle needing a decisive victory to get their Heineken Cup campaign back on tracks, but instead they were stunned by a second-half volley of tries which all but snuffed out their chances of sneaking into the knockout rounds. Now they face the daunting prospect of trips to Pau and Leicester with only pride for which to play.

Coach Richie Dixon stopped short of admitting that it was now a lost cause, but didn't mince his words when he confessed: ''We were very flat and only played in fits and starts. We were hanging in there instead of putting pressure on the away side.

''We kicked our goals - but we should have been scoring tries. It seemed as if we were committing too many people to winning the ball. In our anxiety to do that, we didn't have support runners when we did manage to make the breaks.

''All credit to Pau. We put some pressure on them at the start but the first time they went down the field they scored. We never made them feel that they were playing away from home.''

Pau coach Jacques Brunel took a diplomatic tone by saying: ''It was not as easy as the score suggests. Although we had opportunities to score several tries at the end of the first half and at the start of the second, Glasgow gave us difficulties.

''After an hour, no-one knew who was going to win. The difference between the scoring of a try or not was the quality of the passing, and we passed very well. We know we will have to play as well next week to beat them in France.''

The Reds couldn't have dreamed of a more encouraging start as they claimed a six-point advantage with just four minutes on the clock. After barely 60 seconds, Welsh Test referee Gareth Simmonds ruled that no fewer than five Frenchmen had charged over the top of a ruck - leaving Mark McKenzie to celebrate his recall by confidently slotting the penalty from 35 metres.

He was on-target again almost instantly from closer range when the Pau backs sneaked offside in the wake of a fine under-pressure catch by skipper Rowen Shepherd off a steepling kick from opposite number David Arrieta.

Both sides continued to look nervy and it was soon Pau's turn to benefit from a glaring error as international stand-off David Aucagne banged over a 35-metre penalty for ruck-handling.

The Reds were looking the more potent outfit in attack, but it was clear that they were up against a particularly robust defence. No.8 Jon Petrie created a promising opening when he hurtled into the danger zone. He might have gone the whole way, but instead of backing himself he released a sloppy pass.

Caley kept up the momentum with Gordon Simpson and Glenn Metcalfe having darts at the line, only to be blocked a couple of paces short. The good work didn't go completely unrewarded, however, as McKenzie landed his third penalty from close in.

The joy of the home fans in the 2500 crowd was tempered by the sight of Metcalfe hobbling off to be replaced by Shaun Longstaff.

Pau were looking increasingly dangerous on the counter-attack from deep and they carved out a try in the fourteenth minute. The Reds' problems began when McKenzie spilled a shin-high pass from Graeme Beveridge 35 metres from his own line. Pau kept the ball alive before No.8 Eric Gouloumet breenged through a weak challenge by Simpson to touch down under the crossbar and give Aucagne a simple conversion.

The French side then suffered an injury setback of their own when centre Charles Cistacq was stretchered off having apparently jarred his neck in a collision with James McLaren. For the remainder of the error-strewn half, McKenzie was engaged in a personal game of penalty ping-pong with Aucagne - the latter missing a string of attempts as Caley struggled to cope with Pau's rolling mauls.

One spiralling surge in particular enabled them to transport the ball 20 metres to within a pace of the line, but on this occasion the home markers held firm. Aucagne was successful with one kick, as was McKenzie, whose strike on the stroke of the interval kept his team in the contest.

Caley came out for the restart looking much more purposeful with Beveridge twice cutting through the Pau fringe cover, only to find himself isolated from support. Territorially, the Reds were beginning to earn the upper hand - but they were still persistently guily of losing the ball in contact.

Their fortunes took an upward turn in 57 minutes when they broke through at last. Beveridge sparked panic in the Pau defence with another solo snipe before Carlo di Ciacca galloped into the 22. He was hauled to the deck five metres from the line, the ball was slickly recycled and Alan Bulloch dived for the vital touch after a deft chip by McLaren.

McKenzie was wide with the quest for extra points, but at least Caley had proved to themselves that enterprise would be rewarded. Within five minutes Pau were back in the driving seat.

Their ability to threaten from long-range was underlined again as Arrieta scooted in near the posts at the end of a series of quick passes. Aucagne converted to leave Caley three adrift and coach Richie Dixon responded by sending on Tommy Hayes in place of McLaren.

Hayes filled the No.10 slot, with McKenzie slipping back to 15 and Shepherd to inside centre.

The reshuffle was no no avail, however, as Arrieta sealed their fate with his second touchdown. Again Aucagne converted to end the Caley challenge, and it turned into a romp as Damien Traille, Aucagne, and Guillaume Combes added further tries - although McKenzie goaled a last-gasp touchdown by Simpson to have a consolation final word.

Glasgow Caledonians - R Shepherd; J Steel, A Bulloch, J McLaren (T Hayes, 66), G Metcalfe (S Longstaff, 10); M McKenzie, G Beveridge; D Hilton (A Watt, 83), C Di Ciacca, G McIlwham, S Campbell, S Griffiths, J White, G Simpson, J Petrie (M Waite, 85).

Pau - D Arrieta; X Cambres, S Guilhem, C Cistaq (D Traille, 20), L Arbo; D Aucagne, P Carbonneau; M Larrouy, M Dal Maso(J Rey, 78), S Bria, T Cleda, A Lagouarde, A Agueb, L Mailler (G Combes, 66), E Gouloumet.

Referee: G Simmonds (Wales).

Scoring sequence (Reds first): 3-0, 6-0, 6-3, 9-3, 9-10, 9-13, 12-13 (half-time); 17-13, 17-20, 17-27, 17-32, 17-39, 17-46, 24-46.

Scorers: Caley: Tries - Bulloch (58), Simpson (83). Conversion - McKenzie (83). Penalties - McKenzie (1, 3, 9, 37). Pau: Tries - Gouloumet (14), Arrieta (64), (73), Traille (78), Aucagne (79), Combes (80). Consversions - Aucagne (14, 64, 73, 78, 79). Penalties - Aucagne (5, 29).