Glasgow Caley .... 29

Leinster ................. 17

The 2000 or so spectators who braved chilling wind and rain to be at Hughenden last night will be back. Others will follow, particularly if BBC's ''Rugby Special'' programme shows the home side's final try in all its glory tomorrow night.

This was among the finest displays by any Scottish side in European competition so far and if they fell away towards the end it was hardly surprising, considering the effort that had gone in to overcoming conditions and a side that had beaten English champions Leicester a week earlier to put on a magnificent exhibition of running rugby.

''We showed tonight that we can really play some good rugby and I'm delighted we put on that kind of performance in front of such a good crowd,'' said coach Richie Dixon.

''Everyone who watched that will realise that is a different level from anything we've previously seen in domestic rugby.

''That final try was just outstanding and that is the sort of thing we've been looking for.

''What was particularly encouraging, though, was that on a really cloying surface in very difficult conditions, and after we had played a really hard, fast game in Paris last Sunday, the players' fitness held up so well.''

He was critical of the way Leinster were allowed to salvage something from the match with two late tries, but Leinster coach Mike Ruddock acknowledged that the game was over long before that.

''We paid dearly for not getting in enough first-time tackles, but we have to give great credit to Glasgow for the quality of their handling,'' he said.

However, he said they had been in no way surprised by the home side's performance.

''We had watched their match against Stade Francais and saw enough to know they would be a handful,'' said Ruddock. ''This is going to be a very tight group with four quality sides.''

Despite international centre Ian Jardine's late withdrawal, the Reds made a hugely encouraging start after kicking off into the wind, their handling much more secure than in most of their previous matches this season.

Despite light rain driving through on the wind, the best move in the early stages saw Tommy Hayes work an opening which almost put Scotland hooker Gordon Bulloch in for the opening try.

Instead, after earning a series of close-range penalties but failing to force their way over, skipper Andy Nicol eventually opted to let Hayes open the scoring with the kick at goal.

The overall sharpness was also evident in defence as, when Brian O'Driscoll did eventually manage to manufacture a Leinster break, Jason White showed the benefit of having a lock with flanker's pace as he back-tracked to put in the covering tackle.

The opening try arrived midway through the half after a speculative Nicol kick was knocked on into the path of Gordon Bulloch, who showed delightful touch in floating a pass to Jardine's late replacement Ian McInroy, to create the overlap.

In turn, the youngster released the ball at the right moment to put Scotland winger Shaun Longstaff in and, although he juggled the ball all the way down the left touchline, his pace took him past the last man and round close to the posts to make it an easy conversion for Hayes.

With Scottish sides having tended to get nervous when ahead this season, Leinster tested the Reds resolve and they came up with the right answers. Thrice the Irish side's pack attempted to maul their way over the line and thrice they were emphatically repelled. Then, having fought their way out of defence after that sustained Leinster effort, the Reds were clinical as they powered their way forward again.

Once again, forwards and backs showed superb close-quarter skills to force their way deep into Leinster territory and in many ways the move was summed up by the finish, winger Alan Bulloch battling his way out of the grasp of two tacklers to release flanker Roland Reid on the right.

Hayes converted from wide on the right and, although handling was becoming increasingly difficult towards half-time as the rain intensified, the Reds continued to dominate, swarming back in defence and supporting one another superbly in attack.

Indeed, Leinster were lucky to be on the scoreboard by the interval, Mark McHugh putting over a penalty with the last touch of the half.

It looked as if the Reds had suffered something of a reaction to that first-half effort as they were forced onto the retreat early in the second. Yet, once again the effort in defence was as impressive as anything they had done going forward and Leinster were resticted to a brace of penalty opportunities, both of which McHugh missed.

Having soaked up that pressure, the Reds then lifted the tempo again, five well-constructed phases of play taking them deep into Leinster territory before Metcalfe chipped neatly in behind the defence, only for the ball to narrowly beat Longstaff to the dead-ball line.

The winger's second try was only delayed by moments, however.

From the drop-out, the Reds recovered the ball wide on the right and spread it left. The opportunity seemed to have been lost when it went to ground, but Longstaff fell on it, then picked himself up to run brilliantly across the face of the Leinster defence, racing some 30 metres before diving under the posts.

The very best was yet to come, though, as his fellow winger Bulloch again provided the spark.

He recovered a loose ball in his own 22 and set off across the pitch, where he found substantial support.

The ball was worked rapidly to the left touchline, then back across field before, having covered at least 100 metres, Bulloch - one of four men to be involved in the move twice, along with Jon Stuart, Metcalfe, and try-scorer Hayes - put his stand-off in for the score.

In the closing stages, the home defence was at last broken down when hooker Shane Byrne powered his way over following a close-range scrum.

Nicol subsequently conceded a dubious looking penalty try when adjudged to have held Hegarty back after his opposite number had charged down the scrum-half's kick on the try line.

However the game was safely won long before that.

Glasgow Caledonians - G Metcalfe; A Bulloch, I McInroy, J Stuart, S Longstaff; T Hayes, A Nicol; D Hilton, G Bulloch, G McIlwham (A Watt 68min), S Campbell, J White, J Petrie, R Reid, G Simpson.

Leinster - G Dempsey; D Hickie, B O'Driscoll, S Horgan, P McKenna (C McEntee 72); M McHugh, D Hegarty; E Byrne (R Corrigan 65), S Byrne (P Smyth 77), G Halpin, R Casey, L Cullen (G Fulcher 65), D O'Brien, L Toland, V Costello.

Referee: P Thomas (France).

Scoring sequence (Glasgow Caledonians first): 3-0, 10-0, 17-0, 17-3(half-time); 24-3, 29-3, 29-10, 29-17.

Scorers: Glasgow Caledonians: Tries - Longstaff (18, 58), Reid (30), Hayes (29); Conversions - Hayes (18, 30, 58); Penalty - Hayes (5). Leinster: Tries - S Byrne (76), penalty try (80); Conversions - McHugh (76, 80); Penalty - McHugh (40).

qLast night's other results:

Heineken Cup. Pool 3 - Ulster 6, Wasps 19; Pool 1 - Pontypridd 22, Colomiers 14

European Shield. Pool 1 - Begles 33, Dax 19.