When Reds coach Richie Dixon stressed for the umpteenth time before this match that it was vital that his side provide thrilling performances to excite spectators, this was not what he had in mind.

Apparently safe, 17 points clear with 70 minutes gone, the Reds demonstrated at Hughenden last night that there is no such thing where Scottish sides are involved as they just about protected an unbeaten home record in this season's Celtic League and claimed a fourth win in five matches.

''We won . . . that's the most important thing,'' said Dixon. ''Last year we would have lost that game.

''Our players have to realise that when you are sitting third in the table people below you are going to shoot at you.

''We did score some good tries and some of our rugby was excellent, but once we do that we seem to lose our focus.

''There are still deficiencies in our game which are crippling us.''

In particular, he is concerned about the inability to put opponents away when the Reds are in control of situations.

''It seems to be a matter of concentration,'' said Dixon.

During a bright opening the Reds struck first but had to settle for a Mark McKenzie penalty after Ian Jardine's clean break had threatened to produce a try.

By contrast, Ebbw Vale were much more clinical when they broke through in the midfield for the first time, Roland Reid eventually hauling Paul Mathews down just short, but Rhys Potter taking advantage as the Reds cover failed to scramble back in time when the ball was quickly recycled under the posts.

Jason Strange converted and added a penalty before the Reds produced the best rugby of the half to draw level then move ahead.

Their first try came after Jon Petrie charged through the first line of defence following a clean lineout take midway inside the visitors' half, McKenzie making ground and Alan Bulloch commiting defenders before his feed to Shaun Longstaff as he cut infield allowed the international winger to mark his comeback with a good try.

That was a fine score, but it was eclipsed by what followed as Ebbw Vale surrendered possession following a succession of huge hits by the Reds forwards.

McKenzie then made ground and his well-timed pass again put Bulloch in the clear, the in-form centre showing great awareness to delay his pass until Jardine was in the perfect position on his left shoulder to receive the scoring pass.

The lead was short-lived, though, the Welsh pack finding that overly easy route to the line following a lineout just inside the Reds' 22 for hooker Brad Morris to claim the score and, with McKenzie and Strange exchanging further penalties, it was still all square at the interval.

The Reds began to assert themselves in the third quarter, Jardine managing to regain his feet after being tap-tackled just short to stumble over for his second try with McKenzie converting and then adding another penalty.

He and Strange then again swapped penalties before Graeme Beveridge scrambled his way over for the try which looked to have made the game safe.

Yet with 10 minutes remaining and three scores clear they contrived to keep the drama going right to the end as they allowed the visiting pack to dominate possession.

It was the unlikely figure of Jason White who missed the tackle on replacement fly-half Sean Conner which allowed him to scamper over the line and, with the clock running down, Hawker slipped through from another close range ruck for the try which brought his side within three points.

As the match entered injury time, Deiniol Jones was penalised for holding onto the ball in the tackle as Ebbw Vale launched one last desperate effort to attack from deep, but it was the accurate McKenzie's successful penalty strike that, to the relief of the Reds camp, finally brought down the curtain.

Glasgow Caledonian Reds - R Shepherd; S Longstaff, A Bulloch, I Jardine (G Metcalfe 58), J Craig; M McKenzie, G Beveridge; D Hilton, G Bulloch (G Scott 40-40), G McIlwham, S Griffiths, J White, R Reid (S Campbell 52), G Simpson, J Petrie.

Ebbw Vale - R Potter; R Shorney, P Mathews, J Hawker, A Harries (C Landry 70); J Strange (S Connor 60), G Betts (M Taylor 63); I Thomas, B Morris (A Peacock 60), D Pensini, C Billen (L Banks 60), N Edwards (A Rogers 60), D Jones, G Green, M Jones.

Referee: J Fleming (Boroughmuir).

Scoring sequence (Reds first): 3-0, 3-7, 3-10, 10-10, 17-10, 17-17, 20-17, 20-20(half-time); 27-20, 30-20, 30-23, 33-23, 40-23, 40-30, 40-37, 43-37.

Scorers: Glasgow Caledonian Reds: Tries - Longstaff (13), Jardine (16,45), Beveridge (59); Conversions - McKenzie (13,16,45,59); Penalties - McKenzie (3,27,47,54,80).

Ebbw Vale: Tries - Potter (7), Morris (21), Connor (70), Hawker (80); Conversions - Strange (7,21), Connor (70,80); Penalties - Strange (11,29,51).

Caley Reds 43

Ebbw Vale 37