Glasgow Caley25

From the moment we bade farewell to Shaun Longstaff at Edinburgh Airport on Saturday morning, it was never going to be the Reds' day as they sought the win which would have broken their duck in Wales this season and in any away match in Europe.

That the international winger was about to get some extra, unexpected quality time with wife Jenny and three-day-old daughter Molly would have been little consolation when he heard the score later in the day.

Due to join his team-mates on Saturday morning after all of a day's paternity leave, Longstaff had been alongside us comfortably studying his sports science text books on BA flight 4033 bound for Bristol, when the pilot suddenly announced that we were returning to Edinburgh due to an electrical fault which was interfering with the de-icing mechanism.

A hurried change of route via Birmingham and a Kamikaze-style race down the M5 to arrive at Sardis Road moments after kick-off was an option for scribes, but not for a man whose name had to be included on or left off a team-sheet well before the match got underway.

In the end, Longstaff should probably be thankful for having missed the trip since the Reds back three endured a torrid afternoon.

It would be fanciful to suggest his presence might have made much of a difference. The contingency play of bringing Jon Steel along as cover should Longstaff run into travel problems having been implemented, he was probably the most secure of the trio, internationalists Glenn Metcalfe and James Craig both having very disappointing games.

When coach Richie Dixon said afterwards that some among the side had put their hands up and accepted a more than equal share of the blame for the defeat, he did not identify the culprits, but those two certainly should have been among them. So, too, should stand-off Tommy Hayes, despite his perfect strike-rate of seven kicks from seven attempts over the course of the afternoon.

The discomfort of the men at the back was certainly compounded by his wayward punting, which allowed opposite number Lee Jarvis to torment Metcalfe and co with his clever tactical kicking in the second half in particular.

Dixon was unprepared to use the disruption caused by Longstaff's situation or the boggy underfoot conditions which contributed to a fairly dour, uninspiring encounter, as excuses for a performance which now leaves the Reds with a formidable task in attempting to reach the quarter-finals.

Nor was he interested in suggesting that there was anything untoward in the incident in which Steve Griffiths was lucky to avoid serious injury, when he appeared to be deliberately pulled backwards at a lineout, landing on his neck and requiring lengthy treatment before continuing.

The entire XV were guilty of a shocking lapse early in the first half which offered the momentum to the Welsh side and, indeed, perhaps suggested that there are practical, as well as psychological advantages to be had from playing at home.

Had the match been in Glasgow or Perth, the suspicion is that the crowd might have alerted the Reds players to the way Pontypridd full back Brett Davey sneaked up to the halfway line and took a quick kick-off, which he himself recovered.

That manoeuvre caused the disarray in the Reds defence that ultimately allowed Brent Cockbain to slide over for a crucial score, which, coming immediately after Hayes had levelled matters with a penalty, took the pressure off Pontypridd .

The next key moment was also a self-inflicted wound.

Research having demonstrated that to have a man sin-binned is normally worth seven to 10 points to the opposition, it was sheer folly of Stewart Campbell, just a few feet from where Paul John had taken a quick tap penalty, to allow instinct to take over and grab the scrum half by the scruff of the neck, and within two minutes of his departure, Jarvis had put John in under the posts.

Dixon's gamble in replacing Craig with Roland Reid failed when the replacement winger failed to field John's box kick, and Metcalfe followed up with a dreadful blunder, failing to pick up the loose ball and letting Lenny Woodard gather to dive over for the easiest of tries.

Jarvis was subsequently entitled to his show-boating dive on crossing the line shortly afterwards to wrap up the.

In fairness, though, it must also be recorded that was there never any chance that Alan Bulloch's late try, showing commendable fight in wrestling his way through a series of attempted tackles, was going to spark a late revival.

Pontypridd - B Davey; L Woodard, S Parker, J Bryant, J Colderley; L Jarvis, P John; C Loader, F Vunipola (J Evans 72), S Cronk, B Cockbain, R Sidoli (W James 72), D McIntosh, R Parks, M Owen.

Glasgow Caledonian Reds - G Metcalfe; J Steel, A Bulloch, I Jardine, J Craig (R Reid 62); T Hayes, G Beveridge (A Nicol 76); D Hilton, G Bulloch, G McIlwham, S Campbell, S Griffiths (M Waite 73), J White, G Simpson, J Petrie.

Referee - A Rowden (England).

Scoring sequence (Pontypridd first): 0-3, 3-3, 6-3, 6-6, 13-6, 13-9, 13-12, 16-12 (half-time);16-15, 19-15, 26-15, 26-18, 33-18, 40-18, 40-25.

Scorers: Pontypridd: Tries - Cockbain (15), John (60), Woodard (68), Jarvis (71). Conversions - Jarvis (15, 60, 68, 71). Penalties - Jarvis (7, 11, 37, 51). Reds: Try -A Bulloch (75). Conversion - Hayes (75). Penalties - Hayes (3, 14, 18, 36, 48, 63).