wounds mean

no repeat of

last year's

Perth heroics



Neither camp was willing to admit that this defeat has knocked the Reds out of contention to reach the knockout stages of the European Cup, but the reality is that they can, in the words of that well-worn football cliche, now concentrate on the league.

After the way in which their best chance of achieving an away win was spurned in Pontypridd a week earlier, more self-inflicted injuries - in all sorts of senses - have killed the momentum that had beengenerated in the Celtic League.

That Leicester director of rugby Dean Richards still sees them as a danger to his men may, then, be of some consolation in the longer term, confirming as it does the respect the Reds have gained in the wider rugby world.

''There is no doubt about it, they would pose most people a threat in our Premiership,'' he said.

''We knew what their capabilities were and since we appreciated how strong they can be then it was a game we were apprehensive about.

''We haven't killed them off. We have got to play them at home. They will do their homework on us and I'm pretty sure they'll come out with all guns blazing at our place.''

That, though, only underlined just how deeply frustrated Reds coach Richie Dixon should feel after the English champions were ultimately allowed to coast to victory when they looked even more vulnerable than on their previous visit to Perth's McDiarmid Park. That day a year ago, Reds shocked them 30-17, but Dixon could not be seen to be giving this season's European Cup up as a lost cause.

''Obviously we've made it very difficult for ourselves, but you never say never,'' he said. ''A lot of our problems today were self-inflicted. Our error count was higher than we would normally accept.''

That was particularly true in the early stages when it looked as if the Reds were primed to run Leicester off the pitch with another high octane performance.

To that end, Dixon's decision to leave Glenn Metcalfe out of his starting line-up as well as James Craig seemed curious, but Rowen Shepherd had been utterly reliable during the league campaign and was again one of the side's best performers.

As at Pontypridd, the Reds moved ahead early and once again it was through the boot of Tommy Hayes, but just as at Pontypridd that was the precursor to a horribly err- atic performance by the stand-off.

Indeed this time his performance was even more damaging than in Wales because, as well as kicking badly from hand, he missed a number of crucial kicks at goal.

That said, it was his recovery tackle on Leon Lloyd which almost saved the day after the first major blunder of the afternoon when a bizarre pre-planned scrummage deep in the Leicester 22 move went badly wrong.

Graeme Beveridge went into the scrum as flanker, allowing Gordon Simpson to take over the scrum half role, but when the ball squeezed out at an awkward angle neither was in any position to prevent Jamie Hamilton from breaking clear.

Hayes' tackle prevented the immediate score, but with the field positions now reversed, Leicester took their chance, Lloyd stepping inside Hayes with the Reds defence stretched.

Tim Stimpson then added the first of a series of penalties before Leicester capitalised on another Reds mistake, stealing lineout ball on the home throw five metres from the line and moving it rapidly down the line for Neil Back to force his way through.

Immediately after Leicester - streetwise as ever in their ball-killing antics when defending - found themselves a man short after the referee at last took action and sin-binned hooker Dorian West, the Reds did find a way through, both Bullochs making good ground, as did Shepherd, before Gordon Simpson charged into the line at close range and drove over.

Hayes converted and added a penalty before the interval to reduce the gap to 17-10 and he and Stimpson exchanged further kicks until 13 minutes from time, allowing Leicester to maintain their seven-point advantage.

It was then that Stimpson put the game beyond the home side, first with a 58-metre penalty goal - shades of Paul Thorburn's strike which denied Scotland a Grand Slam in 1986 - then sneaking in between Metcalfe, on as a replacement and Ian Jardine for an opportunist score.

The full back, who was named man of the match, generously described it as a clever piece of skill by Lloyd in chipping the ball in behind the Scottish defenders, but it looked as if it had come off his shin.

It had, though, been that sort of day for the home side since, in attempting to block that huge Stimpson penalty moments earlier, Simpson and replacement hooker Gav Scott had lifted flanker Jason White so that his head hit the cross-bar, almost concussing him.

In the closing stages with Moody having become the second Leicester player to be sin-binned, Scott showed his skills in the loose by appearing on the left flank to take Hayes' double miss pass and cut inside Geordan Murphy to score on the left, but by that stage it was much too late to affect the result - or indeed the Reds' chances of progressing in Europe.

Glasgow Caledonian Reds - R Shepherd; J Steel (G Metcalfe 62min), A Bulloch, I Jardine, S Longstaff; T Hayes, G Beveridge; D Hilton, G Bulloch (G Scott 45-55, 60), G McIlwham, S Campbell, S Griffiths (M Waite 72), J White, G Simpson, J Petrie (R Reid 59).

Leicester Tigers - T Stimpson: G Murphy, L Lloyd (O Smith 71), P Howard, W Stanley; A Goode, J Hamilton (R Nebbett 80); G Rowntree (D Jelley 65), D West (R Cockerill 65), D Garforth (J Grindall 80), M Johnson, B Kay (P Short 77), P Gustard (L Moody 67), N Back, A Balding (R Cockerill 37-43).

Referee - D Mene (France).

Scoring sequence (Reds first): 3-0, 3-7, 3-10, 10-17(half-time); 10-20, 13-20, 13-23, 16-23, 16-26, 16-33, 21-33.

Scorers: Reds: Tries - Simpson (34), Scott (79); Conversion - Hayes (34); Penalties - Hayes (1, 54). Leicester: Tries - Lloyd (13), Back (31), Stimpson (70); Conversions - Stimpson (13, 31, 70); Penalties - Stimpson (19, 41, 58).