Caledonia Reds.....16


GLASGOW secured revenge of sorts for the defeat in last season's European Qualifying Tournament which cost them the domestic championship, with victory last night in the somewhat surreal surroundings of a back pitch at Bridgehaugh.

With the European Cup just over a week away, and Ulster and Llanelli lying in wait, both sides were in need of some last minute fine-tuning and although last night's encounter was played at a cracking pace and with all-round full-blooded endeavour, as preparation for the cut and thrust of Europe's premier competition it only just cut the mustard.

Both coaches - Glasgow's Kevin Greene and the Reds' Ian Rankin - will be mightily relieved that the match did not leave them with additions to the injury list. The pitch was bone-hard and the close-quarter exchanges were contested with little asked or given in the way of quarter.

Caledonia were without both their British Lions. Tom Smith is out of the early stages of the European Cup with a back injury. He was not expected to play last night. However, of more immediate concern was the fact that Rob Wainwright, who had been expected to turn out, was on the sidelines as well.

Wainwright's chest injury might well mean that he will be accompanying Smith on the sidelines for the early stages of the European Cup.

Caledonia were, too, without their new signing Derrick Patterson. The scrum half has an ankle problem and his failure to make it on to the pitch last night was said to be a precautionary measure.

Last night's match was the first since the SRU issued their directive whereby referees are told that they must police the tackle situation.

Grangemouth's Andy Ireland certainly did that. A blizzard of penalties meant that any semblance of continuity was impossible to achieve.

The referee cannot be blamed for that. He is just following orders. However, that did not stop Rankin from commenting acidly that if last night's fare is an example of how the law is to be administered then the game is in trouble.

''We got a two-page fax from the SRU telling us that they wanted the game to flow and that it would be refereed accordingly. Either we have got an awful lot to learn or the game is dead. There were far too many stoppages. It was impossible to get any momentum up,'' said Rankin.

Glasgow's Kevin Greene declared: ''I'm happy enough with how it went. It provided the opportunity for us to try out some new combinations of players but, really, referees must referee to what the intention of the player is.

''Often the third man at the tackle is trying to stay on his feet but he is knocked over. Then the ref blows up when the ball is coming out anyway. He has to have a feel for the game."

It is always difficult to know just how much to read into matches such as last night's. There is nothing much at stake other than pride and, with Europe beckoning, players would be less than human if they did not allow themselves the occasional thought that injury must be avoided at all costs.

Nevertheless, Glasgow always seemed the side more likely to triumph.

The match was locked in a 6-6 penalty deadlock at halftime - no bonus points there, under the SRU's new scoring system for the domestic season!

Glasgow's recent fly-half recruit, Cook Islander Tommy Hayes looked very much the part with some clever distribution and telling forays into the heart of the Reds' defence.

He also amassed a personal tally of 18 points from a try, three penalty goals and two conversions. If he can reproduce that kind of performance when Glasgow open their Euro campaign against Ulster then he will certainly have earned his corn.

For Caledonia Reds, the Scotland under-19 captain Jason White caught the eye more than once with some ferociously committed tackling.

In the absence of the injured Stewart Campbell, he was fielded as a lock. He probably has more of a future long-term in the back-row but he showed once again last night that his is very definitely a name for the future - and that future may well get underway against Llanelli next weekend.

The sparse crowd waited 52 minutes until the first try was scored, Matt McGrandles going over wide out for Glasgow. Fraser Stott sailed in for a try on a wide open scrummage blind-side after 65 minutes and Murray Fraser had the Reds' solitary touchdown with three minutes to go.

Hayes had Glasgow's third try in injury time when he scampered in from broken play. Scorers:

Caledonia - Fraser 1t; Shepherd 3p 1c Glasgow - Hayes - 1t 3p 2c; McGrandles 1t; Stott 1t.

Caledonia Reds - Shepherd; Renton, Rouse, Carruthers, Longstaff; Easson, Black; Penman, Scott, Manson, White, Grimes, McIvor, Flockhart, Waite.

Substitutes - Fraser for Carruthers (39m), Hayter for Waite (40), Herrington for Penman (40), Officer for Rouse (53), Penman for Manson (75).

Glasgow - Simmers; Stark, Bulloch, McGrandles, Metcalfe; Hayes, Stott; McIlwham, Bulloch, Beckham, Farquhar, Perrett, F Wallace, McLeish, M Wallace. Shaw for McLeish.

Substitutes - Kittle for McIlwham (40), Ablett for A Bulloch (65), Porte for Beckham, Docherty for G Bulloch. Referee - A Ireland (Grangemouth).