Edin Reivers 48

Cross Keys 12

Perhaps not as spectacular as their Scottish rivals victory over opposition from Gwent, the Edinburgh Reivers nonetheless put in a satsifactory performance to reclaim the lead in the race for European seeding.

As Frank Hadden, their coach, observed afterwards, that there is little obviously at stake, contributed to another disappointing turn-out at Myreside for this one-sided encounter against the Scottish/Welsh League's bottom side, however, Glasgow Caledonian Reds have raised the stakes with their win at Newport.

The remaining matches for Scotland's professional sides may lack the obvious tension of involvement at either end of a league table, but they are far from meaningless.

Where it does become difficult for them to motivate themselves, however, is when any semblance of competition is taken away from the match they are involved in.

That had happened long before half-time yesterday.

At Cross Keys a couple of months ago the Reivers paid a heavy price for not capitalising on early dominance. No such mistake was made yesterday as they built up a 22 point lead in 17 minutes, scoring three tries in the process.

The first of them came from Craig Smith, the prop who, a year ago, was in Scottish rugby's wilderness, suspended and without any sort of contract.

However, a spell in New Zealand with Nelson Bays, during which he played against Scotland, offered him a platform for his talent and he took his chance well, earning the call from the Reivers.

His try was a typically bullocking effort, capitalising on Martin Leslie's break inside the Cross Keys twenty-two, however, the national selectors may have been even more pleased with his contribution to his side's first points.

That was a penalty which came about after the Reivers had driven Cross Keys off their own ball.

That scrummage superiority was extremely obvious in that dominant first quarter and while it would be wrong to get overly excited about that given the opposition's lowly league position, it is that department which has always given rise to doubt over Smith's ability.

Indeed in the same part of the game against the Reds nine days earlier Smith was taken apart by Dave Hilton, but he pulled himself together and contributed hugely to his side's comeback win.

''Tighthead is my preferred position, but I knew my scrummaging was something I have had to work on. However, I have taken a lot of confidence out of these two performances and I am hoping to get more opportunities to play during the rest of the season because I love playing in these conditions,'' said a man who has most often this season been used as an impact player.

''You've got to test yourself every week, because you can't learn anything if you aren't playing, and the only way you really learn is if you are made to struggle.''

To that end, albeit they made it look pretty difficult in the second half as they made several changes against a visiting side which was out to spoil, the Reivers learned relatively little yesterday as they claimed their revenge for the biggest embarrassment of their season when they became the only side to lose to Cross Keys in the league.

Smith was followed over by Conan Sharman, who showed a typical poacher's instinct to be on Leslie's shoulder as he again broke clear inside the twenty-two and David Officer's clean break allowed him to present Chris Paterson with the easiest of run-in scores.

However, only one further score was registered before the interval, Graham Dall reacting quickly as the ball squirted out of the scrum after the Reivers pack drove Cross Keys behind their own line, and the second half was something of a mess.

Admittedly it began promisingly enough when, with Cross Keys flanker Arthur Howarth in the sin bin, Paterson claimed his second, getting onto the edge of Hodge's flighted pass, then Marcus Di Rollo, impressive once again going forward, benefited from Graham Dall's pillaging on the opposite touchline to score in the left corner.

However, as the shape of the game dissolved amidst off the ball scraps, with Cross Keys seeking to avoid a slaughter, their full-back Chad Bushell claimed a couple of tries in the final quarter, sandwiching Di Rollo's second well taken score as he latched onto Gordon Ross's delightfully timed pass.

In fairness to the visitors, a second match in four days against a team full of internationalists - having put in a tremendous effort to get within 10 points of Cardiff in midweek - accompanied by a lengthy journey made without a couple of key players, was always asking too much of Cross Keys' team of part-timers.

Indeed, apart from embarrassing the Reivers, their performances all season have thoroughly undermined the argument of those who believe that semi-professional sides can be competitive against full-timers.

That being the case, since they are still learning their trade as professionals, the Reivers can perhaps be forgiven for failing to be as clinical as they might have in the dying stages.

After all, as Hadden pointed out, they largely kept their cool in the face of considerable provocation.

Edinburgh Reivers: C Paterson; C Murray, M Di Rollo, D Officer (K Utterson,62 min), C Sharman; D Hodge (G Ross, 54), G Burns (I Fairley, 66); A Jacobsen, S Scott (P Robertson, 40), C Smith, D Mackinnon, R Metcalfe, M Leslie, G Dall (M Taylor, 54)(B Stewart, 71), S Taylor.

Cross Keys - C Bushell; C Arnoki, M McCarthy (S Reed, 56) (K McDonald, 52), A Price, S Crane; S Bai, C Ellis (T Walsh,76); J Rogers (I Evans, 40), L Gardner (G Stroud, 60), M Jones (D Crimmins, 40), D Davis (K Stewart, 55), N Kelly, A Howarth, C Brown, R Williams.

Referee: -M Hall (Boroughmuir)

Scoring sequence (Reivers first) 3-0, 8-0, 15-0, 22-0, 29-0(half-time) 36-0, 41-0, 41-5, 48-5, 48-12.

Scorers: Reivers - Tries - Smith (9), Sharman (12), Paterson (17, 48), Dall (36), Di Rollo (54,78). Conversions - Hodge (12,17,36,48), Ross (78). Penalty - Hodge (1). Cross Keys - Tries - Bushell (62,80). Conversion - Bai (80).