Glasgow Cal 28

Connacht 13

AN improvement in the attendance of some 7,500 per cent will be required if the superteams are to achieve the SRU's stated target of 15,000 crowds, but the 220 paying customers were at least given some encouragement at Bridgehaugh last night.

Admittedly, Connacht were well below strength, Ireland stand-off Eric Elwood one of eight members of the side beaten by Leinster a week earlier who were not in last night's starting line-up.

However, the important thing for watching Scotland coach Jim Telfer was to see improvement on the dismal effort by Glasgow Caledonians that he witnessed in Ulster last week - and that was achieved.

''There are still quite a few technical problems,'' he said.

''There was too much elaboration at times and there were too many people going into rucks, but that's acceptable because it can just be put down to over enthusiam on the part of the forwards.

''You couldn't fault them for lack of effort.''

That was certainly true, and Glasgow Caledonians' coach Keith Robertson, though still well aware that his side have a great deal of work to do to prepare for next weekend's meeting with Edinburgh Reivers and, more importantly, the European Cup opener against Pontypridd a week later, saw signs of encouragement.

''I was pleased with the way we handled the ball, particularly in the first half,'' he said. ''here was a lot of good, incisive, hard running,and our ball retention was a lot better. We also put some big hits in.

''We're getting closer all the time to what's required.''

Speaking more generally, though, what satsified him most was the sense that they are beginning to look more like a team than a motley collection of talented individuals, something that was focused upon following the disappointment of their defeat in Belfast.

''On Monday we had an hour in the dressing room before we went training, just talking about that and it was worth two hours in the paddock,'' he reckoned.

''We talked about how we had let ourselves down at London Scottish and in Ulster, talked about pride and team spirit.

''It was good to see them starting to use their feet and stand up for one another more.''

In the early stages it seemed more evident that Connacht, who play in a shadow provincial championship, not only have a more instinctive sense of identity, forged not only at first team level but through their second team, several of whom were getting their chance last night.

However once Tommy Hayes put his side on course with two of first quarter penalties, the home side settled into the game.

Perhaps the biggest encouragement for Caledonians, though was the form of their two top quality finishers as was demonstrated with the first two tries.

Hayes instigated both moves, the first with a miss pass to Rowen Shepherd, who fed Derek Stark and he released fellow winger James Craig in just enough space to gather the pace to carry two tacklers into the left corner.

After the problems he has had with injuries, it was a pleasure to see Craig looking so sharp, hitting the ball at pace and willing both to run with the ball and to take contact when the need arose.

A delightful dummy by Hayes, followed by instant acceleration, created the opening for the second score and though Aaron Collins then floated his pass well for Stark to run on to there was still work to be done as he ran around Nigel Carolan to get into the right corner.

A 15-point lead early in the second quarter ought to have been the platform for a big win, and that they failed to go on to a 30 point plus victory was the biggest disappointment.

Instead, the only real defensive lapse of the night allowed Carolan to chip the ball over a flat defence just inside the Caledonians half and gather to score under the posts and give Connacht some hope.

Certainly there was rarely the slightest suggestion thereafter that they would upset their hosts, but Caledonians, while winning plentiful possession, lacked penetration thereafter, particularly during a lacklustre third quarter.

Once again Kiwi import Gordon Simpson was one of their best players, looking as effective with a No.8 on his back as he has as an openside flanker and he claimed the try that put the game beyond doubt.

Good understanding between him and Fraser Stott saw the scrum-half draw defenders away and create just enough space for Simpson to build up a head of steam after picking up at a five metre scrum.

Glasgow Caledonians: R Shepherd; D Stark, C Simmers (I Jardine 74 mins), A Collins, J Craig; T Hayes, F Stott; T Smith, K McKenzie, W Anderson (A Kittle 68 mins), S Grimes, G Perrett, J White, J Shaw (G Mackay 72 mins) G Simpson (M Waite 72 mins).

Connacht: W Ruane; R Southam (A Reddan 52 mins), P Duignan, M Murphy, N Carolan; O Cobbe (S Allnutt 40 mins), C McGuinness (D Reddan 32 mins); J Maher, J McVeigh, M Finlay (J Screene 59 mins), G Heaslip, J Duffy, J Casserley, S McEntee (N Culleton 6 mins), I Dillon.

Referee: C Rees (England).