Leicester . . . . . . . . 34

Caledonian Reds ... 21

Honours even then, 51 points apiece over the two legs of this double-header between the English champions and what is currently the better of Scotland's professional sides, but how the Reds are kicking themselves.

In a thrilling game of rugby, they again had spells of dominance against the most respected club in the British game, and their forwards again looked much the better unit against their injury depleted opponents.

Few sides, let alone the Reds themselves, will have a better chance of claiming a win at Welford Road, but the indom-itable will to win that can only truly be forged by years of determined effort, ultimately saw Leicester through.

So the Scots gained substantial kudos in having proved themselves genuinely competitive at this level, but Leicester know they have almost certainly ridden out a crisis.

''There was a lot of pressure there, our backs were against the wall, but we brought our youngsters in and they did really well,'' said their manager, Dean Richards, who went on to acknowledge the quality of the opposition.

''Glasgow are probably one of the better sides in Europe at this moment in time,'' he reckoned. ''If you look at our group, then three if not four of the sides would probably be in the top two in most other groups.''

Such a tribute should be little consolation to a side that now has to win its final two matches and look for help from elsewhere if it is to go through, and former Leicester player Jon Stuart, who had another fine match, noted that the Reds pack had particular reason to feel hard done by.

''I thought our forwards were entitled to feel a bit insulted when Leicester didn't go for the points to level things at half-time, and instead kicked to the corner to go for the try from the lineout. So when we they didn't come up with it, I thought that would have kept our boys going,'' said the centre.

''However, you cannot keep a good side like that down for 80 minutes. We should have scored more points when we could have in the first 20 or 30 minutes.''

On behalf of the backs, then, Stuart accepted much of the responsibility for that failure.

''Our finishing at the moment is iffy at best,'' he said. ''A lot of times, especially in the Celtic League, we get into the opposition 22, we do all the hard work, and we're not scoring when we should.''

Having fielded much the better of the two sides over the two matches, even if the scoreboard suggested otherwise, Reds coach Richie Dixon did well, then, to mask his disgust at being asked whether his side had been surprised by the intensity.

''The intensity of both these games has been very high,'' he said. ''We contributed as mightily as Leicester It takes two to tango.

''When they were upping the game, our defence was pretty good, and when they broke out we had opportunities to score, and our last score highlighted the type of rugby that we are trying to play.''

Coming from a quickly taken penalty on halfway by captain Andy Nicol, it was created by Alan Bulloch's power and directness creating the opportunity for brother Gordon to demonstrate how much he is an auxiliary flanker in the loose as he powered away for the score. Their only other try had been the result of some excellent work by Tommy Hayes in 10 minutes, delaying his pass wide on the right long enough to draw Dave Lougheed towards him and leave enough room for James Craig to go over on the right.

Hayes and Tim Stimpson both having put over early penalties, the Reds were confined to one further score during that period of pre-eminence, a second Hayes penalty, while Leicester's talisman and captain for the day, Neil Back, ploughed over in characteristic fashion from a close-range lineout for a try which prevented the Scots pulling away.

Though, as Stuart observed, Leicester were prevented from going ahead in first-half injury time - not least because of the centre's own frame jolting tackle on No.8 Adam Balding - the writing was on the wall.

Stimpson wasted little time in levelling the scores early in the second-half, and Leicester claimed the lead when a superb double miss pass by Pat Howard put Lougheed over on the left.

Indeed, when Hayes reduced the deficit with his third penalty strike, that score was very much against the run of play and was only put in range after Howard had spoken out of turn.

It was Stimpson's boot which was to be used to more telling purpose in the latter stages, however, although not before Austin Healey had danced his way in, Chris Paterson style, for the try which made the game safe for Leicester at the beginning of the third quarter.

Healey's selection for his first game at stand off at any level was inevitably being hailed as something of a masterstroke south of the Border yesterday, yet Richards' demeanour under interrogation on the subject was that of a man who had just about got away with it.

Leicester's PR people, having boasted before the match that they ''never resort to sinister mind games,'' it was a compliment to the Reds that they broke with tradition by deliberately keeping Healey's selection in the No.10 jersey under wraps to prevent them from planning to capitalise on his lack of experience there.

Indeed, Healey admitted to having had a rocket from Richards at half-time for being too greedy, but he did well in the subsequent half hour before being replaced.

Stimpson's kicking did the rest of the damage, and the high tackle Shaun Longstaff was adjudged to have made in 79 minutes - one of many eccentric decisions by Mr Davies which favoured the home side - could yet prove very costly indeed.

Leicester - T Stimpson; N Ezulike (G Murphy 77), S Potter (C Joiner 72), P Howard, D Lougheed; A Healey (A Goode 72), J Hamilton; P Freshwater (D Jelley 67), D West, G Rowntree (K Fourie 77), M Corry, B Kay, L Moody, N Back (P Gustard 62), A Balding.

Glasgow Caledonian Reds - G Metcalfe; J Craig (I McInroy 40), A Bulloch, J Stuart, S Longstaff; T Hayes, A Nicol; D Hilton, G Bulloch, G McIlwham, S Campbell, J White, G Simpson, D McFadyen, R Reid (J Petrie 72) Referee: R Davies (Wales).

Scoring sequence (Leicester first): 0-3, 3-3, 3-10, 3-13, 10-13 (half-time); 13-13, 18-13, 18-16, 25-16, 28-16, 31-16, 31-21, 34-21.

Scorers: Leicester: Tries - Back (19), Lougheed (47), Healey (61). Cons - Stimpson (19,61). Pens - Stimpson (2,44,65,69,79). Glasgow Caledonians: Tries - Craig (10), G Bulloch (78). Con - Hayes (10; pens - Hayes (1,13,55).