Inability to take chances at one end; tries given away too easily at the other - the old failings remain evident, but after a month of inactivity this was one of the Reds' more credible performances in Wales.

Admittedly the scoreline would have been worse had an injury time Gareth Thomas touchdown counted, but Cardiff had the greater reason to be relieved about that decision after the touch judge's intervention.

''The referee was going to give a couple of players yellow cards, but I had a word with him and we decided it was just as well to call it full-time,'' said Gordon Bulloch, the Reds' captain in the absence of Andy Nicol.

As one local suggested, Scotland's hooker may have earned a potential British Lions' front-row colleague a couple of caps, since Dai Young, the Wales captain, might actually have seen a red card and picked up the inevitable ban after very obviously throwing a series of punches.

That was a unfortunate end, however, the match having been played in good spirit with both sides attempting to play expansively, albeit they were undermined by the condition of the surface.

That a ground of Cardiff Arms Park's prestige continues to be in such condition - visibly better than in early season, but still treacherous - is perhaps a bigger issue for the welfare of professional rugby.

As Richie Dixon, the Reds coach, pointed out afterwards, when Super 12 was introduced in the southern hemisphere a major consideration was offering players a platform upon which to play a style of rugby that would appeal to spectators.

Dixon also voiced his concern at his side's lack of match practise and, while they started in lively fashion, there was some justification for his view that they might have taken the chances created better had they possessed the instinctive understanding developed only through regular play.

They were first to claim the lead after Jon Stuart's powerful tackle knocked Jamie Robinson back, putting Cardiff in trouble almost directly from the kick-off, as they were forced to concede a penalty in front of the posts.

Tommy Hayes could have added to that first-minute penalty, but horribly pulled another opportunity low and wide.

His intelligent kick into space on the left then earned a close range lineout from which the pack mauled over, but could not get the ball down.

Stuart subsequently made a clean break and had Gordon Simpson on his shoulder as he committed last man Rhys Williams, but the flanker was reeled in by the cover.

The key moment in the game, however, was the sin-binning of James McLaren for stupidly throwing the ball away after a penalty was awarded to Cardiff on a day when the centre did little to enhance his chances of staying in the Scotland 22.

The price paid was hefty - Neil Jenkins levelling the scores with a penalty before converting after Craig Morgan, just as he was bundled into touch, timed a pass perfectly to put his full back in.

Jenkins, having missed a crucial kick at goal at the end of Cardiff's single point defeat in Glasgow, was in exhibition mode, going on to put over from all angles. However, Hayes rose to the challenge with a 49-metre penalty, and with no further scoring the game was evenly poised at the break.

That changed immediately after the re-start, however, as the Reds, now facing the wind, unwisely attempted to run their way out of their own twenty-two and inevitably made the handling error which gave Cardiff ideal field position.

They took their opportunity well, recycling possession twice before Morgan entered the midfield on the right and rounded Simpson to score. Cardiff were never under any real pressure after that as the Reds' resources became stretched, Roland Reid having to come on as a winger, an emergency in this instance but truly something worth persevering with as a serious option given Scotland's lack of pace and power out wide.

It remained closely contested, though, until Morgan found room to run deep in his own half, chipped down the left touchline, outstripped both Longstaff and Metcalfe, hacked on, then just reached the ball before it ran dead.

Thomas then ran in what proved to be his only try from 35 metres out, while the Reds finally broke through just before the end. Appropriately enough, their try scorer was Fraser Stott, who has rarely played at this level this season, but who stuck gamely to his task all afternoon, particularly after Rob Howley, the British Lion, came on as a second-half replacement.

Though it looked a dubious score, Barry Irving appearing to knock the ball three yards forward in making the first bid for the line, David McHugh, the Irish referee, reckoned it had been ripped from the replacement's grasp rather than dropped.

It made little difference to the outcome anyway, as also applied to that late decision not to show a card of any colour to Young.

Cardiff - R Williams (P Jones, 72 min); N Walne, J Robinson, G Thomas, C Morgan; N Jenkins (M Rayer, 75), R Powell (R Howley, 64); K Fourie (O Williams, 68), A Lewis (J Humphreys, 67), D Young, C Quinnell (S Moore, 78), M Voyle, D Baugh (O Williams, 48-67) (S John, 67), M Williams, G Kacala.

Glasgow Reds - G Metcalfe; J Steel (A Bulloch, 20), J McLaren (R Reid, 51), J Stuart, S Longstaff; T Hayes (B Irving, 75) (G Scott, 80), F Stott; D Hilton, G Bulloch, G McIlwham, S Griffiths (C Stewart, 75), J White, G Simpson, D Macfadyen. J Petrie.

Referee - D McHugh (Ireland).

Scoring sequence (Cardiff first): 3-0, 3-3, 10-3, 10-6(half-time);17-6, 24-6, 31-6, 31-11.

Scorers: Cardiff: Tries - R Williams (21), Morgan (41, 65), Thomas (73). Conversions - Jenkins (21, 41, 65, 73). Penalty - Jenkins (18). Reds: Try - Stott (77). Penalties - Hayes (1,24).