Glasgow Caley ... 22 Edinburgh Reivers .... 25

Heriot's FP stand-off Gordon Ross all but secured a substantial contract offer from Edinburgh Reivers yesterday, after snatching a first victory of the season for them over Scottish rivals at Inverness' Caledonian Park.

Though meaningless in competitive terms, it was an important match for Reivers who had lost four previous games to the Reds this season.

Though behind for much of the second half, Ross' two late penalties offered proof of the spirit which has allowed them to turn things around since their management re-shuffled six weeks ago.

''Belief comes from confidence, which comes from playing well, which comes from winning,'' was caretaker head coach Bob Easson's assessment of how things have been transformed.

Yet the Reds could also take enormous satisfaction from the fight shown in their camp, following a difficult few days, since they were ahead when villified Scotland prop Dave Hilton left the field six minutes before the end to a wonderfully warm reception from the

2000-plus crowd.

He responded by staying on after the final whistle to sign autographs, making clear his belief that he has nothing to be ashamed of.

''David is a professional rugby player and has been very professional this week, which is no more than I would have expected,'' said his coach, Richie Dixon.

Indeed, asked to comment also on Jon Stuart's excellent performance, the centre being their other player to discover last week that he was currently ineligible to play for Scotland, Dixon continued: ''I take my hat off to both of them.

''We are a pretty tight squad and there is a lot of respect amongst all of them. We have started something here and we all want to be part of it as it


Certainly some of Hilton's more vicious critics - particularly the anonymous cowards who have used his case to further their own agendas - could learn much from the courage and dignity the Scotland prop has shown in recent days.

He still has a huge case to answer - though SRU administrators seem at least as culpable, if not much more so - but it is by no means the open and shut one that some would have us believe.

That Hilton chose not to hide - as he might have been entitled to do with news reporters hounding him - but instead was out evangelising around the north with his colleagues, before facing up directly to Barry Stewart, a man entitled to believe the Bristolian has robbed him of caps, showed great resolve.

Perhaps, too, some of the former team-mates who benefited from his gutsy efforts in a Scotland shirt - not least as one of only two players to take part in both epic wins in Paris in 1995 and 1999 - yet were so quick to condemn him, could take something from the way school-

children flocked around Hilton at the Invergordon rugby festival on Friday.

For all concerned this match was, then, an uplifting occasion, glorious conditions, underfoot and overhead, fully justifying the decision to take this first professional game up north - both sides seeming eager to exploit them, albeit a game in which the lead changed hands six times, was

riddled with errors.

Reivers were much the better side for most of the first half, however, and deservedly took the lead when some excellent continuity work saw play go through several phases, before full-back Graeme Kiddie created the overlap to put lock Iain Fullarton over.

A Ross drop goal extended their lead before Tommy Hayes got the home side on the scoreboard with a penalty and Reds then stole the lead with a well-worked move.

Barry Irving's perfectly timed pass let Gordon Simpson hit the line at pace and make the breakthrough and after covering some 40 metres he floated out a pass to Stuart. He fed Alan Bulloch and as the winger cut infield Marty Waite timed his run perfectly to charge over, Hayes converting.

Waite, sadly, did not last the game, being taken to Raigmore Hospital afterwards to have an eye injury X-rayed.

Ross deservedly re-established the Reivers' lead just before the break with a penalty and within three minutes of the re-start they drew further clear.

Winger Kenny Milligan left a trail of tacklers in his wake down the right and, after he was stopped inside the twenty-two, the ball was shifted quickly left where Graham Shiel's miss pass put Kevin Utterson in.

Reds threatened to take control when Gordon Simpson twice plunged over from close range, either side of a Ross penalty.

After that burst of scoring there was a lengthy lull until those closing moments when Ross held his nerve to put over a straightforward kick to level things, then a much harder one to claim victory with the last touch of the ball, two minutes into injury time.

Since he and Heriot's team-mate Stewart Walker, who made a cameo appearance on the wing late in the match, are believed to be Reivers' signing targets, Ross could hardly have done his negotiating in more impressive


''It is very different from club rugby, but this is the level I want to play at,'' said the youngster, who made clear his preference to remain in Scotland rather than, as has been claimed he might, move to England.

''I think I'd rather stay at home with my friends and family at the moment.

''Maybe the Reivers will talk to me now,'' he laughed.

Glasgow Caledonian Reds - R Shepherd; T Hayes, J Stuart, I Jardine, A Bulloch; B Irving, F Stott (G Beveridge 66 min); D Hilton (A Watt 73), G Bulloch, G McIlwham, D Burns, S Campbell, J White, G Simpson, M Waite (G Scott 32)

Edinburgh Reivers - G Kiddie; K Milligan (S Walker 68), J Hita, G Shiel, K Utterson; G Ross, I Fairley; A Jacobsen, S Scott, B Stewart (M Proudfoot 51), A Lucking, I Fullarton, C Mather, G Dall, G Hayter.

Referee: J Hogg (Hawick)

Scoring sequence :(Reds first): 0-5, 0-8, 3-8, 10-8,10-11 (half-time) 10-16, 17-16, 17-19, 22-19, 22-22, 22-25.

Scorers: Reds - Tries - Waite (25), Simpson (46, 50). Conversions - Hayes (25, 46). Penalty - Hayes (19). Reivers - Tries - Fullarton (7), Utterson (43). Drop goal - Ross (13).Penalties - Ross (39, 49, 78, 80).