Cardiff ... 42 Glasgow Caledonian Reds ... 21

IN the wake of yet another confidence-sapping defeat on Welsh soil, Glasgow Caledonians coach Richie Dixon last night defended his decision to join international referee David Davies in insisting that the Celtic League encounter went ahead in virtually impossible conditions.

The Reds ended up being swamped by the clinical capital men as the Arms Park pitch was turned into a quagmire by a vicious lunchtime monsoon, leaving Cardiff to keep on sailing happily towards the Celtic League title.

Dixon admitted his men had been outplayed in most departments - but heaped praise on both sets of players for serving up such a cracker in horrendous conditions.

He said: ''I thought it was an excellent contest in spite of the state of the ground, and the teams tried to produce entertaining rugby for the holiday crowd. We were quite happy to play the game, even though the pitch looked very waterlogged.

''A lot of people had travelled to the match and we certainly did not want to let anyone down. The referee asked us 30 minutes before the start if we were keen to go ahead - and we had no problems.

''In the end, I think it was the right decision.

''This season the league has proved to be a learning experience, and we know we have to improve for next season. We won't be going in cold like we did this term, and I am very confident about our ability to keep on getting better.''

Stand-off Tommy Hayes had given Caley the perfect start when he slotted over a second-minute penalty after the home side wandered offside in front of the posts.

Paul Burke, standing in for off-form record breaker Neil Jenkins, then swapped kicks with Hayes before Cardiff seized the initiative with the first of their five touchdowns.

The Reds defence had been outstanding in the opening quarter of the game, with Jason White proving why he was given his big break in the triumphant final Six Nations encounter against England.

He and Gareth Flockhart were clear stand-outs, although neither could prevent reject Wales scrum half and skipper Rob Howley from chipping into the corner, where young wing Craig Morgan picked up to score.

Irishman Burke converted - and straight from the restart Caley suffered another major setback.

Steve Moore collected the ball decisively, drove on to half-way and set his backs in motion. Under-21 international centre Jamie Robinson made the telling break before releasing Mike Rayer, who sent Gareth Thomas in for a try which Burke again goaled.

When he banged over another quick penalty, it looked as though a points avalanche was on the cards - but Glasgow's response was positive.

Full back Glenn Metcalfe chipped into enemy territory and followed up at pace to dribble past opposite man Rayer.

It was then a dramatic head-to-head race with Emyr Lewis for the vital first touch, and Metcalfe got there by a split second.

Hayes converted to give the Reds renewed hope, but much of the good work was again undone when Burke bagged another penalty on the stroke of the break.

Within only 35 seconds of the restart, Cardiff had effectively made sure of their success in the wake of a tragic turnover involving Metcalfe.

Having fielded a stray up-and-under from Howley, he somehow lost the ball in the challenge - and when Carfdiff opted to surge up the narrow side, Morgan skipped in for his second try with dead-eye Burke converting.

Hayes struck again to reduce the deficit after some excellent probing from Flockhart and captain Andy Nicol in the worsening conditions.

Hooker Gavin Scott's lineout delivery was far from polished and although the pack did their bit to stand firm in the scrum, their set-piece play did not produce the kind of platform Nicol must have hoped for.

In contrast, Cardiff were far more combative in those important areas, and, in Howley, appeared to have the inspiration.

After 57 minutes, he displayed his initiative by tapping a quick penalty and scuttling over unopposed from close to the line for Burke to convert.

Metcalfe eased the Caley plight slightly with his second score after a break from James Craig - but they never looked likely to threaten Cardiff's


Burke was sin-binned for playing the ball on the floor, much to the amazement of the home crowd, but, even down to 14 men, they held the upper hand.

Two minutes into stoppage time, substitiute winger Liam Botham cruised over to complete Glasgow's day of misery.

Cardiff - M Rayer; N Walne (L Botham 62min), G Thomas, J Robinson, C Morgan; P Burke (N Jenkins 70), R Howley (R Powell 60); G Powell, J Humphreys, D Young (captain), S Moore, J Tait, O Williams, M Williams, E Lewis.

Glasgow Caledonian Reds - G Metcalfe; J Craig, A Bulloch, I Jardine, I McInroy; T Hayes, A Nicol, (captain, F Stott 78); D Hilton (A Watt 61), G Scott (G Bulloch 57), G McIwham, D Burns, S Campbell (M Waite 60), J White, G Flockhard (D McFadyen 55), J Petrie.

Referee - David R Davies (WRU).

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 3-3, 3-6, 10-6, 17-6, 17-13, 20-13, 23-13, half-time; 30-13, 30-16, 37-16, 37-21, 42-21.

Scorers: Cardiff - Tries: Morgan (2), Thomas, Howley, Botham; Conversions: Burke (4); Penalties: Burke (3). Glasgow Caledonian Reds - Tries: Metcalfe (2); Conversions: Hayes; Penalties: Hayes (3).