Ireland book a play-off match with Scotland as they complete the Autumn Nations Cup pool phase with a 23-10 win in Dublin. But it was the Lelos who emerged the happier
Ireland fail to impress as Georgia register points at last
Ireland got the Autumn Nations Cup win that all predicted but drew little comfort from their performance at the Aviva Stadium.
At a time when the entertainment value of rugby is being questioned because of a proliferation of kicking, Ireland’s 23-10 defeat of Georgia did little to assuage concerns.
The second half was desperately poor, with a rash of penalties, handling errors and substitutions disrupting the flow of the game. In addition, there was a serious injury to Georgia’s excellent No 8 Beka Gorgadze.
Coming off the back of defeat at Twickenham, Ireland vowed to fix the set-piece. They were half-successful because the lineout functioned like clockwork, albeit throwing to the safer areas. They achieved scrum parity in the first half but fell away after the break against a Georgia side finally delivering this autumn on their assumed area of expertise.
Worryingly for Ireland, Georgia also won the physical battle, as typified by their try-scorer, Giorgi Kveseladze, driving back Irish prop John Ryan powerfully in midfield. In the closing moments, the centre resisted CJ Stander’s close-range drive in similarly robust fashion.
Andy Farrell’s team was never in danger of losing the game and, having clinched second place in Pool A, they now advance to a play-off with Scotland at the same ground next Saturday.
But major doubts persist about their ability to get gain-line dominance. The stats show that Georgia made a higher number of dominant tackles and also of turnover tackles, although in fairness they went through a heap more work in that department. Ireland had 68% of the possession, along with 63% of the territory.
Jerry Flannery, commentating for Channel 4, said: “Ireland were physically dominated in the one-to-one battles. Georgia do not go away. How well they pitched against an Ireland side that has underperformed has been admirable.”
The highlight of the match was Georgia’s first try of their Autumn Nations Cup campaign, having been nilled by England and Wales over the past fortnight. And it was a beauty, Kveseladze taking an inside pass just inside his own half and embarking on a swerving run past Billy Burns and beyond the sprawling reach of Jacob Stockdale and Stuart McCloskey.
Ulster fly-half Burns had opened the scoring after nine minutes, darting across from ten metres for his first Test try on his third appearance. He added two penalties and two conversions for a 15-point haul by the break, before giving way to Ross Byrne.
Hugo Keenan scored Ireland’s other first-half try from Stockdale’s perfect long left-hand pass. However, Ireland were left aggrieved that another effort was ruled out.
Stockdale produced another peach of a pass to find McCloskey wide on the left and the centre scooted up the touchline to dot down. But the try was controversially chalked off for a ‘forward’ pass after TMO intervention.
Rob Herring also came close, from a lineout drive, and credit to Gorgadze, so often Georgia’s best player, for getting underneath the hooker to deny the score. The Lelos’ captain, Merab Sharikadze, also had an outstanding match, making more than 20 tackles to go with his powerful ball carrying.
For Ireland, there will be last one opportunity this autumn to try to prove that they can produce the goods in the collision area. Georgia will hope that Fiji will be available to play their scheduled play-off game next weekend. It has been a tough few weeks for the East Europeans but today’s performance will give them much encouragement.
Ireland: Jacob Stockdale; Hugo Keenan, Chris Farrell, Stuart McCloskey, Keith Earls (Shane Daly 63); Billy Burns (Ross Byrne 46), Conor Murray (Kieran Marmion 57); Finlay Bealham (Cian Healy 57), Rob Herring, Andrew Porter (John Ryan 41), Iain Henderson, James Ryan (capt, Quinn Roux 62), Tadhg Beirne (Peter O’Mahony 62), Will Connors (Dave Heffernan 67), CJ Stander.
Tries: Burns, Keenan. Cons: Burns 2. Pens: Burns 2, Byrne.
Georgia: Soso Matiashvili; Akaki Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze (capt, David Niniashvili 67), Tamaz Mchedlidze (Demur Tapladze 65); Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze (Mikheil Alania 74); Mikheil Nariashvili (Lekso Kaulashvili 50), Shalva Mamukashvili (Giorgi Chkoidze 9-19, 65), Beka Gigashvili (Giorgi Melikidze 71), Nodar Cheishvili (Giorgi Javakhia 62), Lasha Jaiani, Beka Saginadze, Tornike Jalagonia, Beka Gorgadze (Mikheil Gachechiladze 63).
Try: Kveseladze. Con: Abzhandadze. Pen: Abzhandadze.
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