Ireland scrapped to a 23 – 10 win against Georgia in the Autumn Nations Cup at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Billy Burns and Hugo Keenan both crossed, either side of a try from Georgia’s centre Giorgi Kveseladze, in an upbeat first half.
However, the visitors dug in in the second half and Ireland lost their way as the game descended into an arm wrestle.
TRY: Billy Burns, Hugo Keenan
CON: Billy Burns (2)
PEN: Billy Burns (2), Ross Byrne
TRY: Giorgi Kveseladze
CON: Tedo Abzhandadze
PEN: Tedo Abzhandadze
I hadn’t much of an expectation for this game as I’d indicated in my preview though the game did unfold in reverse to what I had predicted with the excitement in the first half as opposed to the second.
Ireland feasted off early Georgian mistakes to race to a 10 point lead in the opening exchanges. Billy Burns sliced through the defence on the 8th minute, after a missed kick to touch was returned with interest, and, minutes later, Burns stepped up to add a penalty to his try and conversion after Georgia were penalised at the breakdown.
The Ulster player appeared to settle into his starting role reasonably well picking up 15 points from a try, two conversions and two penalties before departing, due to injury, 5 minutes into the second half.
Photo credit ©INPHO/Gary Carr
Georgia hit back before the first quarter was out as centre Giorgi Kveseladze took an inside ball on the halfway line to sprint clear. Still plenty to do, but he had time to sell Jacob Stockdale a fish supper and collect the change, before finishing under the posts. Out half Tedo Abzhandadze added the extras to take the score to 10 – 7 after 18 minutes.
Burns knocked over his second penalty at the start of the second quarter to push the score line to 13 – 7 but it was a game with limited continuity.
Neither of these sides really enjoyed playing with the ball and, in a game with 36 turnovers and 24 penalties, it was a stop start affair – which has been a feature of this tournament.
Only Burns and Stockdale had any real interest in attacking space and they combined on the 33rd minute to send Hugo Keenan over out wide after Rob Herring had come close from a lineout drive.
Burns added the extras to take the score to 20 – 7 and it looked as though Ireland might start to run away with the game after Stockdale sent Stuart McCloskey on his way down the left. The move was, ridiculously, called back for an adjudged forward pass and the teams turned round shortly after.
Half time: Ireland 20 Georgia 7
The game deteriorated as a spectacle fairly dramatically in the second half but it was interesting enough none the less.
Burns went off, due to injury, five minutes in, taking half of Ireland’s creativity with him and, with no one to play off, Stockdale’s effectiveness dropped as well.
Georgia’s abrasive defence very much dominited proceedings as they manhandled the predictable Irish attacks and they closed the gap to 20 – 10 when Abzhandadze knocked over his second penalty.
However Ross Byrne, on for Burns, replied on the 58th minute to push the score to 23 – 10.
The final quarter was very disjointed though Ireland did raise their efforts for a final charge. In a game where they dominated territory and possession 80:20 their attack was found wanting and the game petered out without further score as Georgia’s physical defence maintained the upper hand.
Final Score: Ireland 23 Georgia 10
Ireland: Jacob Stockdale, Hugo Keenan, Chris Farrell, Stuart McCloskey, Keith Earls, Billy Burns, Conor Murray, Finlay Bealham, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter, Iain Henderson, James Ryan (C), Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander. Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Cian Healy, John Ryan, Quinn Roux, Peter O’Mahony, Kieran Marmion, Ross Byrne, Shane Daly*
Georgia: Soso Matiashvili, Akaki Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze (C), Tamaz Mchedlidze, Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze, Mikheil Nariashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gigashvili, Nodar Cheishvili, Lasha Jaiani, Beka Saginadze, Tornike Jalagonia, Beka Gorgadze. Replacements: Giorgi Chkoidze, Lexo Kaulashvili, Giorgi Melikidze, Giorgi Javakhia, Mikheil Gachechiladze, Mikheil Alania*, Demur Tapladze, David Niniashvili*.
Ireland ended up, where they probably reckoned they would be after the pool games, with a play off against Scotland next Saturday at the Aviva as the tournament reaches it’s final weekend. Georgia get the chance to end the tournament on a high with a game against an undercooked Fiji at Murrayfield.
Ireland have started a rebuilding of sorts but it is a slow process and it seems to be based on a like for like replacement of players, though there seems to be a fair few unavailable as well. Put Garry Ringrose and Jordan Larmour into the mix with, Stockdale, Keenan and Burns and you have a completely different game altogether and is probably where they are trying to get to when circumstances allow. It would be nice to have a team that plays the opposition rather than the percentages!