Edinburgh Reivers...17

Glasgow C'donians 19

The cruel habit lady luck has of deserting sportsmen most in need of her help was demonstrated all too agonisingly at Easter Road yesterday, when Edinburgh Reivers came within the width of a post of claiming a badly

needed first victory ahead of the European Cup.

Though there was very little between two highly committed sides in the first match of the Tennent's Velvet Tri-Series, Reivers probably just about deserved to shade the result courtesy of

having managed to cross their opponents try-line twice as opposed to the one Caledonians success deep in first-half injury time.

''We were bloody lucky,'' was the immediate reaction of Caledonians coach Keith Robertson. ''They say you make your luck and while Reivers will be hugely disappointed after scoring two good tries, we defended very, very well.''

The second of Reivers tries, scored by scrum half Iain Fairley with seven minutes remaining, to break a deadlock that had lasted some 25 minutes, looked to have given Duncan Hodge the chance to win the match with a demonstration of the temperament that once saw him drop a goal to claim a famous Scotland A win over the Springboks.

From the wrong side for the right-footed kicker that he his, Hodge duly converted, only for the question to be asked of him again after Tommy Hayes put over his fourth penalty of the match.

Consequently, three minutes into injury time, the pressure was back on the Reivers stand-off as the ball was fired back to him from a scrum and from close to 40 metres out he seemed to strike his drop goal attempt perfectly.

Caledonians captain Rowen Shepherd looked resigned to it going over as he watched from under the posts, but could hardly believe his luck as the ball rebounded from the woodwork and he, instead of Hodge, was able to deliver the game's last kick, booting the ball to touch.

Any suggestion that Caledonians were not as eager to win the match was cast aside as Shepherd gleefully shook his fist when he heard the final whistle.

''That was the hardest domestic game I've played in,'' he said. ''There was no way anyone was saving himself for the European Cup. These games matter.''

However he also acknowledged: ''The pleasing thing was that we won without playing our best rugby.''

For Reivers it was a bitter pill to swallow after they produced the intensity that seems to have been missing in the warm-up matches that preceded this first competitive outing.

''More than the other games we've played in, there was a real air of expectancy this morning,'' said captain Brian Renwick.

Jamie Mayer, a powerful centre who seemed to come of age on Scotland's summer tour of

Australia, won the man of the match award and it would

perhaps have been more fitting had that late Reivers try, created by one of his many bullocking runs, been the match winner.

Instead he was standing behind Hodge, as the man with whom he was a Premiership title winner last season lined up that attempt on goal and was convinced all the way that it was on target.

''I've said before that we're not a million miles away from being a very good side. As it was, it was inches,'' was his neat summation.

Though James Craig was perhaps the most eye-catching of the Caledonians backs with a couple of breathtaking counter-attacking runs, his mistake, seemingly induced by his captain's command to ''leave it,'' led to the opening try. He duly let bounce a ball which should have been fielded close to the touchline, clearly expecting it to go out. Adam Roxburgh did not hesitate and launched an attack which, with the Caledonians defence badly out of position, saw Hugh Gilmour sprint clear on the left.

Thereafter, for all that there were some lengthy passages of continuous rugby, in amongst a rash of injury stoppages which themselves demonstrated the level of commitment, scoring was restricted to kicks until the fourth minute of first half injury time, when Shepherd powered into the line to make up for that earlier misunderstanding.

After the break Hayes' third penalty was the only score until Mayer's burst created that opportunity for Fairley to scramble over. However the way Caledonians managed to claim those scores at crucial stages, late in both halves, while Hodge came so near and yet so far, perhaps demonstrated better than ever the way teams develop the knack of winning . . . and losing.

Edinburgh Reivers - H Gilmour; T Stanger, J Mayer, G Shiel (A Tait 55 min), C Murray; D Hodge, I Fairley (G Burns 31-34); B Stewart (R McNulty 19-22), S Brotherstone (McNulty 46), M Proudfoot (P Wright 16-22 and 66 ), D Burns, I Fullarton (G Hayter 47), T McVie, A Roxburgh, B Renwick (G McCallum 78)

Glasgow Caledonians - R Shepherd; D Stark, C Simmers, A Collins (S Longstaff 40), J Craig; T Hayes, F Stott; T Smith, K McKenzie (G Bulloch 67), W Anderson (G McIlwham 46), S Grimes ( R Wainwright 64), S Campbell, J White, J Shaw (G Flockhart 73), G Mackay.

Referee - A Watson (Ireland).

Scoring sequence: (Edinburgh Reivers first) - 7-0, 7-3, 10-3, 10-6, 10-13 (half-time); 10-16, 17-16, 17-19

Scorers: Edinburgh Reivers: tries - Gilmour (4), Fairley (73); con - Hodge (4, 73); pen - Hodge (9). Glasgow Caledonians: try - Shepherd (40); con - Hayes (40); pen - Hayes (7, 21, 48, 78).

q John Beattie's view - P9