Reivers 51 Llanelli 23.

As Llanelli went from near European Cup finalists to struggling to qualify for next season's competition in the space of five days, delighted outgoing Reivers head coach Bob Easson said farewell in some style.

However, his final message to his players was blunt after their seven-try mauling of the Welshmen in their final Celtic League match.

''The last thing I said to them was that this is the benchmark for next season,'' he said.

''I would say that was our best performance of the season for a couple of reasons,'' Easson went on. ''Our continuity work at pace was excellent and we were able to sustain our offensive defence throughout.''

While it would be easy to down-play the Reivers performance, given that Llanelli had faced Northampton in a European Cup semi-final on Sunday, then Cardiff in the league on Wednesday, this win had to be earned because the visitors had to win the game to be sure of playing in Europe next season.

However, from the earliest stages they never looked like doing so as their hosts revelled in glorious conditions for running rugby.

Reivers got off to a perfect start courtesy of some poor defending by the visitors.

Captain Graham Shiel, just moments after leading out his two-year-old son Charlie, who was Reivers' mascot for the evening, gave the wee fellow something to be proud of as he made the initial break, well supported by Allan Jacobsen.

Llanelli initially seemed to have managed to snuff out the danger as they slowed possession up at a succession of close-range rucks, but when the ball was

shifted right, No.8 Simon Taylor powered through a weak attempted tackle to score the game's

opening try.

They should have gone further ahead five minutes later when a gap opened up for Iain Fullarton 30 metres out and the lanky lock went loping through, only to be bravely tackled just short by Welsh international full back Matt Cardey's deputy Garan Evans.

However, despite a worrying moment, when they were driven off their own scrummage ball deep in their own, the Reivers pack continued to impress in the loose and earned the field position from which Gordon Ross added a penalty from in front of the posts.

Even better was to come immediately from the re-start as Chris Paterson made his first telling intrusion of the evening, chipping cleverly forward, then giving chase with Marcus Di Rollo. The winger got there first and returned the ball rapidly to his full back, who switched direction twice in attempting to shake off his pursuers, before fighting his way over in the corner.

The youngster's next major involvement was less satisfactory, however, when he was sin-binned for a late tackle - something he has been making a habit of in recent matches - on Dafydd James as he raced into the twenty-two and chipped ahead.

Following the resultant close- range penalty, with the Reivers defence duly stretched, left winger Mark Jones benefited from the overlap.

Undaunted, the Reivers pack worked their back downfield and, when Graham Shiel's jersey was tugged off the ball, Ross put over his second penalty from inside the twenty-two, just left of the posts.

Again they were instantly on the offensive from the re-start as Llanelli's attempt to catch them out by kicking away from the

forwards backfired with Di Rollo breaking away down the left touchline.

With the back-row in rampant form all three were there in rapid support to take play deep into the twenty-two, where Robin McBryde's illegal interference at the ruck gave Ross another easy penalty chance.

It was very much one-way

traffic at that stage and Taylor again made inroads inside the twenty-two to set up their third try, Gregor Hayter supporting him powerfully, with Steve Scott following in behind him to celebrate his inclusion in the Scotland tour party by accepting a neatly flicked underhand pass to go over.

Following Ross's conversion, Henson reduced the leeway with a penalty, but the Reivers back-row again combined to put them in complete control at the interval.

Graham Dall's juddering tackle on Hywel Jenkins after he picked up from a scrum inside his own twenty-two set up the turn-over and, after another strong run by Shiel, Mather selected an excellent angle to come on to Ross's pass and get over on the right.

Turning 33-10 down, Llanelli were clearly badly stung and sent for the cavalry, sending on four of their more regular starters as second half replacements.

One of them, Tongan internationalist Salesi Finau, made a telling intervention early on when he charged down Kevin Utterson's attempted chip, re-gathering then slipping the ball to Dafydd James to present him with an easy score, converted by another of the replacements, Welsh international stand-off Stephen Jones.

As the heat began to take its toll, the pace slackened slightly and more mistakes came into the game, a brace of penalties apiece by Ross and Jones maintained the 16-point gap.

It was the Reivers, though, who had enough in the tank to finish with a real flourish, Graham Burns sparking things off with a break from deep in his own half, which released Ross.

He covered 30 metres before returning the ball to Burns as he entered the twenty-two and the scrum half quickly fired it wide to put Di Rollo in for a try the winger's all-round performance richly deserved.

As the game moved into injury time Gregor Hayter reacted first to a Llanelli fumble as they attempted to counter-attack from inside their twenty-two, to take the Reivers past the half-century mark for the first time this season on home turf, rounding off a marvellous performance.

Edinburgh Reivers - C Paterson (S Lang, 80min); K Milligan, K Utterson, G Shiel, captain, M Di Rollo (C Sharman, 80); G Ross, G Burns (I Fairley, 80); A Jacobsen, S Scott, B Stewart (M Proudfoot, 80), G Hayter, I Fullarton, C Mather (T McVie, 80), G Dall, S Taylor.

Llanelli - G Evans; W Proctor, captain, D James, N Davies (S Finau, 40), M Jones; G Henson (S Jones, 40), P Horgan; S Emms, R McBryde (M Thomas, 62), J Davies (M Madden, 61), A Copsey (V Cooper, 40), C Gillies, D Jones, I Jones, H Jenkins (I Boobyer, 40).

Referee - A Rowden (England).

Scoring sequence (Reivers first) - 5-0,

8-0, 13-0, 13-7, 16-7, 19-7, 26-7, 26-10, 33-10 (half-time); 33-17, 36-17, 36-20, 36-23, 39-23, 44-23, 51-23.

Scorers: Edinburgh Reivers: Tries -

Taylor (1), Paterson (18), Scott (33),

Mather (39), Di Rollo (78), Hayter (80). Conversions - Ross (33, 39, 80). Penalties - Ross (17, 28, 29, 51, 63). Llanelli: Tries - M Jones (24), D James (47). Conversions - Henson (24), S Jones (47). Penalties - Henson (36), Jones (54, 57).

qCaerphilly have escaped a deduction in points after post-

poning their Welsh/Scottish League fixture with Ebbw Vale on December 27. A league management committee accepted the reasons given by Caerphilly, which have not been revealed.