Leinster .... 44 Glasgow Caledonian Reds .... 17

An appalLing lack of composure when the pressure was fully on cost the Reds their chance of reaching the knockout stages of the Heineken European Cup, as they failed to end the sequence of home wins in Pool 1 at Donnybrook last night.

Although coach Richie Dixon was unprepared to concede that they are out of the competition, they remain behind Stade Francais on overall try count which is the only means by which they can qualify.

''We live to fight another day, but we let ourselves down badly tonight,'' Dixon admitted, however.

''I felt we lost the game in the first 20 minutes when we were forcing the game too much and Leinster capitalised on that.

''Yet it was all the more frustrating because, having done the hard work to win the game, we were within five or 10 minutes of taking control of the match.

''However, we went back to forcing the game again at that stage, and you certainly can't make the same mistake twice in the same match.''

The home side deserved credit for being much more clinical in their chance taking, but that they ultimately ran in six tries was down to the number of gilt-edged opportunities which presented to them.

In the end, it was a bizarre scoreline since, as the game entered the final quarter, the visitors looked slight favourites to win the match.

''We played some exciting rugby in the first 20 minutes, which we had planned to do because that is what Glasgow did to us over there,'' Leinster coach Mike Ruddock said afterwards.

''We also showed some character to come back the way we did in the closing stages.

''However, what happened in the middle I'd rather not talk about.

''If we let it slip in that period against Leicester next week we will have no chance.''

In short, he was making the point that for all that the margin was an impressive one in his side's favour, the Reds really should have won this match to set up a pool decider with Stade Francais at Hughenden next week.

The match had begun well for Leinster with Emmet Farrell, whose switch to stand-off had been credited with their improved performance against Stade Francais last month, kicking a second-minute penalty from the 10-metre line, wide on the left.

The Reds, however dominated the rest of the opening quarter, yet surprisingly found themselves 20 points down early in the second quarter.

During that period, they had one sustained spell of pressure on the Leinster goalline with a succession of scrums, but failed to score.

By contrast, when the Irish side did get the chance to break out, after being awarded a penalty just inside their own half, they marched into the opposing 22-metre line and score almost immediately.

From a lineout, the powerful Shane Horgan spun out of one tackle and through another, before the massive lock, Robert Casey, drove on and sucked in enough defenders to create the room for Gary Halpin to roll in under the posts.

Two breakaway tries followed. The first saw full back Peter McKenna controlling the ball well after hacking it down the left touchline following Shaun Longstaff's wild attempt to keep the ball alive as he was forced into touch.

The second came when Ian Jardine's attempted pass to Glenn Metcalfe just inside the Reds half went to ground, and after it was hacked forward it bounced perfectly into the arms of winger John McWeeney at full tilt.

From that point, it was always going to be nigh on impossible and the way things were going was summed up when, with men available out wide as he attempted a quick tap penalty inside the home 22-metre line, Andy Nicol knocked on.

Yet, by the interval, they were back in with a chance.

Tommy Hayes put over a penalty late in the half and when, after far better control and poise in the build-up play, Glenn Metcalfe found his way through some weak midfield tackling to go in under the posts, he converted with the last kick of the half.

A big effort was required by both sides immediately after the break, yet it suddenly seemed as if the implications of the match had suddenly dawned on both teams as the early part of the second half descended into shambles.

Farrell, twice, and Brian O'Driscoll both had woeful attempts to put over penalties, and Hayes also pulled one wide as neither seemed prepared to take the initiative.

However, the Reds looked to have picked things up at the vital stage of the game when they claimed their second try.

From a lineout on the left, the ball was spun wide and Longstaff did well to keep it alive as he was tackled on the opposite side of the field.

With the defence stretched, Hayes long pass opened things up and front row men Dave Hilton and Gordon Bulloch both showed good touch to keep it moving quickly and put Gordon Simpson over in the left corner.

The match swung on the re-start, however, as replacement Trevor Brennan instantly made his presence felt, putting in a huge hit on Jason White as he gathered the ball.

A fracas followed and the Reds were deemed the more culpable, of the two sides the scrum upgraded to a penalty which Farrell at last kicked.

The impression that the chance was lost was reinforced as Hayes failed to find touch with an attempt to set up a lineout from a penalty on halway and then the Reds gave away possession at the next lineout.

That said the final 10 minutes could almost have been classed as bizarre as Leinster ran away with the game and doubled their try tally.

Farrell again proved the inspiration, darting over from a close range scrum, the speedy O'Driscoll then went over on the crash ball and then Denis Hickie rubbed salt into the wounds by intercepting a Gordon Bulloch pass.

All that now remains for the Reds, it would seem, is to salvage some pride by matching the Irish side's record of winning all their home games by beating Stade Francais next week.

Leinster - P McKenna; J McWeeney, B O'Driscoll (M McHugh 20-21min), S Horgan (M McHugh 78), D Hickie; E Farrell, S Forster; R Corrigan, S Byrne (P Smyth 68), G Halpin (P Coyle 73), R Casey (G Fulcher 77), M O'Kelly, D O'Brien (T Brennan 59), L Toland captain, V Costello.

Glasgow Caledonian Reds - G Metcalfe; S Longstaff, J Stuart, I Jardine, A Bulloch; T Hayes, A Nicol capt; D Hilton, G Bulloch, G McIlwham, S Campbell, J White, G Simpson, D McFadyen, R Reid (J Petrie 72)

Scoring sequence (Leinster first): 3-0, 10-0, 15-0, 20-0, 20-3, 20-10 (half-time); 20-17, 23-17, 30-17, 37-17, 44-17.

Scorers: Leinster: Tries - Halpin (14), McKenna (19), McWeeney (22), Farrell (71), O'Driscoll (76), Hickie (80). Conversions - Farrell (14, 71, 76, 80). Penalties - Farrell (2, 59). Glasgow Caledonian Reds: Tries - Metcalfe (40), Simpson (57). Conversions - Hayes (40, 57). Penalty - Hayes (34).