RWC 2019 Pool Game 8: Georgia blown away by clinical Welsh opening
A devastating opening quarter helped Wales to a 43-14 win over a Georgian team that showed they were no pushovers in Toyota last night.
Clicking from the opening whistle the Welsh backs, led by a superb performance from scrumhalf Gareth Davies, tore holes in the Lelos defence to build an imposing 22-0 lead inside 20 minutes. It was 29-0 at half-time, but the Georgians showed plenty of spirit to fight back in the second half, crossing twice themselves and causing enough problems at set-piece time to suggest they could be a thorn in the side for the rest of Pool D, including the Wallabies.
Georgian legend Mamuka ‘Gorgodzilla’ Gorgodze had come out of retirement to compete in his fourth World Cup. But he might have wished he’d kept his feet up instead when he called Dan Biggar’s kick-off for himself, and dropped it cold to give Wales an attacking scrum on the edge of the 22. Especially when they then scored from it, a bullet cut-out pass from Gareth Davies sending Jonathan Davies through a hole and over.
Biggar too, may have wished he was merely a casual observer when he smacked his conversion into a post from right in front. Although his judgement may have been clouded by the bleeding chin he acquired courtesy of an accidental headbutt from Liam Williams as they celebrated the try.
He recovered his normally reliable radar a few minutes later to take Wales out to an 8-0 lead six minutes in when Georgia infringed. And the errors were creeping in from the Lelos and proving costly, a kick-out on the full from flyhalf Teban Abzhandadze punished when Wales struck from the ensuing lineout.
Josh Adams broke the line and had Gareth Davies in support to carry within 10 metres, before the game smarts of Justin Tipuric came to the fore. Arriving on the scene the flanker dummied to pass outside, but sniped his way through the middle and under the posts instead.
They had a third before the end of the first quarter, as the Welsh backline continued to click in tandem off clean set-piece ball, but also helped by some pretty naive defending from the Georgians. This time it was Adams, hitting a nice line off a Biggar pass after Gareth Davies had cleared from another lineout, and the Cardiff Blues winger had too much gas for the cover defence.
It took 25 minutes for Georgia to even reach the opposition 22, and when they did they got to flex their renowned scrummaging muscles to win a penalty and look to hit back from a driving maul, only for a knock-on to bring their attack to a frustrating end.
Biggar’s mixed bag of a night continued when he failed to find touch from a penalty. But a dominant first half display from the Welsh was brought to a close with a bonus point try. A wraparound play between Ken Owens and the effervescent Gareth Davies sent Jonathan Davies running free, and the Lions centre found Liam Williams out wide for try number four, and a 29-0 advantage as they headed to the sheds.
A penalty for holding on from the kick-off gave Georgia an early chance to get off the mark in the second half, and to the delight of their supporters and all the neutrals in the crowd, they took it.
Their first attempt to drive a lineout maul all the way was needlessly felled by Wales, considering no.8 Josh Navidi had his hands on the ball. But when the Lelos went again after kicking to touch, their second surge couldn’t be stopped, and hooker Shalva Mamukashvili found the line and Abzhandadze added the extras.
Wales showed that they could maul too, when they looked to hit back with a lineout drive that went the length of the 22 before being illegally halted. Dan Biggar played the penalty advantage and put a lovely chip kick in behind for Liam Williams to gather and dive home – except he knocked on in the process. But the Georgians were still handed the disadvantage of a man in the bin, with replacement hooker Jaba Bregvadze heading back to the sideline from which he had only just arrived.
However, the Lelos had returned with renewed steel after the break, and a superb effort across the park not only held the Welsh out for the 10 minutes Bregvadze was absent, they also won a scrum penalty on the edge of their 22 with inside centre Tamaz Mchedlidze packing down on the side.
The slickness on display in the first half from Wales had been replaced by a loss of focus and structure from the Six Nations champions. And with belief growing amongst the Georgians, they enjoyed their best period of the match, cutting loose with ball in hand and stretching the Welsh line.
So it was somewhat against the run of play that Wales scored a fifth try in the 65th minute, the largely anonymous George North tearing down the right flank before launching a kick ahead that saw replacement scrumhalf Tomos Williams win a foot race to dot down.
But that only served to stoke the Lelos fire even more, and they amped it up after the restart to grab a deserved second. Another scrum penalty was the greenlight for halfback Gela Aprasidze to tap and go and launch an assault on the Welsh line, and after a barrage of ball carries got them within a metre, burly prop Levan Chilachava eventually crashed over to make it 36-14.
There was still time for a last piece of magic from the Welsh backline though. Tomos Williams had been just as electric as Gareth Davies since he took his place, and it was his step, swerve and offload in the tackle that finally gave North a run at the line and the giant winger didn’t disappoint, stepping a couple of Georgians himself before carrying one with him as he stretched for the chalk to score.
It finished six tries to two then, and Wales coach Warren Gatland must have been pleased with his side’s execution in attack, and the first half performance as a whole. But they did come unstuck at times in the second stanza under pressure from a gallant Georgian team, that can hold their heads high at the 14-all parity they achieved after the break.
WALES 43 (Jonathan Davies, Justin Tipuric, Josh Adams, Liam Williams, Tomos Williams, George North tries; Dan Biggar 4 cons, pen, Leigh Halfpenny con) defeated GEORGIA 14 (Shalva Mamukashvili, Levan Chilachava tries; Teban Abzhandadze 2 cons) HT 29-0 at Toyota Stadium