Missed chances as French flair wins the day

Stade Francais ...... 37

Glasgow Caley ..... 18

GLASGOW Caledonians contributed heavily to their own downfall on a bitterly cold day in Paris yesterday as their Heineken European Cup campaign got under way in frustrating fashion.

In terms of talent and ideas, there seemed little between the sides, but the home side earned the victory simply by making far fewer basic mistakes.

Reds looked eminently capable of pulling off a positive result when they trailed by just five points on the brink of half-time, but after a missed penalty chance and a lapse of concentration which resulted in two quickfire Stade Francais tries, there was no way back.

Despite the outcome, coach Richie Dixon was far from despondent, insisting: ''We played some fantastic rugby out there. The guys know they let themselves down by making silly errors - but there was enough there to give us confidence for the rest of the tournament.

''The home crowd certainly appreciated how much we contributed to the occasion. It's not often they give the time of day to a visiting team, but the ovation they accorded us meant a great deal.''

The Scots had suffered a late pre-match setback when veteran international centre Ian Jardine was forced to pull out with a calf muscle problem. His berth in midfield was filled by Ian McInroy, with Jon Petrie coming onto the bench.

New signing Roland Reid was earmarked as the replacement to cover as both back and forward positions, having played for several years as a specialist winger as a teenager in South Africa.

Backs coach Rob Moffat indicated that Jardine's injury was not serious and that he should figure in selection discussions for Friday's encounter with Leinster, at Hughenden on Friday night.

There were mixed emotions among the home supporters in the build-up after it was confirmed that it would be head coach Bernard Laporte's last match in charge before departing to take the reins of the French national side after Jean-Claude Skrela's resignation.

Caley were the more purposeful outfit in the opening exchanges but were unable to turn pressure into precious points. Gordon Bulloch struck an important psychological blow by nicking the first scrummage against the head following a beautifully weighted up-and-under by, of all people, Gordon Simpson.

Then Alan Bulloch stretched the home defence with a piercing run through the middle, only for the attack to stutter when he failed to feed Tommy Hayes.

The forward power of Stade Francais was underlined when they broke the deadlock during their first raid. After an energy sapping series of scrums and mauls close to the Caley line, it was winger Nicolas Raffault who joined the surge to get the crucial touch.

Diego Dominguez made the tricky conversion look easy from the left-hand side.

Reds shook off the setback to reply with a superb touchdown of their own just five minutes later. Again, Alan Bulloch made the initial inroads, but on this occasion he took the correct option.

He pulled in the wide markers before sending Glenn Metcalfe on a stroll to the line from 20 metres out. Hayes struck the kick crisply, but it drifted narrowly wide.

Alarm bells were ringing at the Caley end, however, when Simpson's failure to hold an inside pass from Hayes let the Frenchmen onto the front foot.

Centre Franck Comba and full back Arthur Gomes were blocked a few metres short, then the Reds defence excelled themselves by stemming another threatening rolling maul, enabling Hayes to clear the danger.

Caley seemed to be having little trouble in securing possession, but too frequently they lost their momentum through simple and frustrating handling slips.

The home side began to step up the pace as the interval approached and they earned another three points from Dominguez after Reds were penalised for offside virtually under their crossbar.

He repeated the dose three minutes later when Simpson was gulity of entering a ruck illegally.

There was still time, however, for Hayes to attempt to repair some of the damage with a penalty from close in and in front, but he shook his head in disbelief as the ball flew wide.

Even worse was to come just 90 seconds after the restart. Instead of touching down a Dominguez chip for a drop-out, Simpson inexplicably booted for touch - gaining only 15 metres and, more crucially, handing possession to the French.

The upshot seemed inevitable as centre Thomas Lombard carved open the back-ranks before Gomes ploughed over. Dominguez added the extra points to leave Caley a mountain to climb.

Hayes steadied the nerves by safely clipping over a penalty two minutes later, but again the Lombard-Gomes double-act created havoc in the visitors' defence, leaving Comba with the easy job of flopping over in the corner.

Hayes kept Caley's hopes alive with his second penalty from 35 metres, but still their play was punctuated by too many errors, and the concession of a penalty paved the way for Lombard to score.

Caley's day was summed up five minutes from time when they should have scored a marvellous try after stringing together at least 20 passes. Hayes reached the target, only to let the ball squirm from his grasp as he dived over the line. They refused to buckle completely, however, and Simpson burrowed through for a consolation score, goaled by Hayes.

Stade Francais had the last word when hooker Fabrice Landreau spiralled over after another fine run by Lombard.

Stade Francais - A Gomes; C Dominici, F Comba, T Lombard, N Raffault; D Dominguez, F Laussucq; S Marconnet, F Landreau, P De Villiers, D Auradou, E Chaffardon, C Moni, C Juillet, R Pool-Jones. Replacements: D Patterson, R Butland, A Abadie, D George, K Whitley, R Poulain, G De Carli.

Glasgow Caledonians - G Metcalfe; A Bulloch, J Stuart, I McInroy, S Longstaff; T Hayes, A Nicol; D Hilton, G Bulloch, G McIlwham, S Campbell, J White, M Waite, G Simpson, D McFadyen. Replacements: B Irving, G Beveridge, R Reid, J Petrie, D Burns, A Watt, G Scott.

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).

Scoring sequence (Stade Francais first): 7-0, 7-5, 10-5, 13-5(half-time); 20-5, 20-8, 25-8, 25-11, 32-11, 32-18, 37-18.

Scorers: Stade Francais: Tries - Raffault (8), Gomes (42), Comba (48), Lombard (67), Landreau (80); Conversions - Dominguez (8, 42, 67); Penalties - Dominguez (35, 38). Glasgow Caledonians: Tries - Metcalfe (13), Simpson (78); Conversion - Hayes (78); Penalties - Hayes (45, 61).