SIBERIAN conditions greeted the small crowd huddled together in West of Scotland's brand new stand for a match which was, for the home side, another ''must win''.

As kick-off approached, we wondered if the match would, in fact, be allowed to go ahead. How West must have wished later that referee Jim Johnston had not allowed it to do so.

Another Saturday, another defeat for the Burnbrae side, but there was more to it than that, as coach Ivan Torpey pointed out afterwards. ''We set out to play handling rugby, and we did that quite well,'' he said. He was right.

Both the home side's tries were the result of some breathtaking movement in the backs. Had it not been for some sadly pedantic refereeing, his side may well have gone on to score more points.

Torpey pointed out: ''It was frustrating, because the game was not allowed to flow, and that was shame for both sides. The referee just never gave the benefit of the doubt. At the end of the day, though, the lads in the dressing room will rue the two soft tries they gave away.''

Watsonians manoeuvred themselves into a scoring position after only a minute, the home side's forwards giving away a penalty, but Bruce Aitchison clattered his kick off the left-hand post. That was only to be a momentary let-off for West as, two minutes later, the visitors rumbled over after three phases, hooker Kevin Stewart coming up with the ball.

Aitchison added three points after the West forwards were reckless in trying to dislodge the ball from a ruck, before home stand-off Colin Duck hit back with three points after 15 minutes.

Watsonians had adapted better to the treacherous surface conditions, and Aitchison extended his side's lead after West were caught offside.

The West backs began to ship the ball down the line, but as Allan Gibbon attempted to feed Paul Assur, Andrew Garry crept in to intercept. He ran 55 metres unopposed to the line to make it 16-3 to the visitors, and when Aitchison added the extras, West looked to be in serious trouble.

The Burnbrae men got back onto the match, however, after a brilliant piece of quick thinking by full back Allan Williamson. During what was really the only sustained period of pressure for West, Williamson received the ball just short of the line. Two Watsonians defenders faced him, and it looked as though the chance had been lost, but he dummied inside and then outside before releasing a perfect pass to the supporting Ian Steele, who crossed to score.

Aitchison, however, kicked another penalty just before the interval to leave Watsonians in command.

The first score of the second period went to the visitors. West were, quite unfairly, penalised at the ruck. Prop Donnie Gibb could not resist mouthing off at the referee, though, and Johnston moved the penalty forward. Aitchison could not believe his luck, and slotted the three points.

Thereafter, the match was played in the middle of the park, until West replacement Nicky Craig set the ball up for Steele to score his second. It was never going to be enough, however, and Aitchison calmly kicked another three points before the end to wrap things up.

Watsonians are now pretty safe, but West, although mathematically still in with a chance of staying up, need one or two miracles if top flight rugby is to be played at Burnbrae next season.

West of Scotland - A Williamson; J Kerr, A Gibbon (N Craig 55min), I Steele, P Assur; C Duck, G Stewart (N McLeod 54); R Balmer (A Patterson 65), C Sheridan, D Gibb, G Perrett, S MacKechnie, S Keith, C Robinson, A Borthwick.

Watsonians - S Hastings; C Armitage (K Watters 7-11), J Burnett, A Garry, J Kerr; B Aitchion, C Black; D Milne, K Stewart, S Lithgow (J McAinsh 74), M McVie, G Hayter, G Dickson (J Osborne 55), H Kidd, N Penny.

Referee - J Johnston (Gala).

Scoring sequence: 0-5, 0-8, 3-8, 3-11, 3-16, 3-18, 8-18, 8-21(half-time); 8-24, 13-24, 13-27.

Scorers: West of Scotland: Tries - Steele (35, 69); Penalty - C Duck (13). Watsonians: Tries - Stewart (3), Garry (20); Conversion - Aitchison (20). Penalties - Aitchison (11, 17, 38, 51, 70).