Georgian Quality Prevails in Portugal as Flawless Start Continues

Georgia kept up their 100% start to 2016 with a well-deserved 29-3 success over Portugal in lashing rain and strong winds in Lisbon on February 13.

The return of full-back Merab Kvirikashvili and center Merab Sharikadze proved influential with both experienced campaigners scoring tries in a more comfortable win than had been expected.

Known as tricky opponents, particularly after last year’s clash in Tbilisi where Georgia struggled to a 20-15 victory, the Portuguese were never likely to be underestimated.

Indeed, the first half-hour saw Portugal demonstrate their credentials as capable opposition, with Georgia limited to a Merab Kvirikashvili penalty in the 20th minute which was almost immediately cancelled out by the boot of Portuguese wing Nuno Sousa Guedes.

However, with the score level at 3-3, some ill-discipline in the scrum from Portugal prop Bruno Rocha yielded a yellow card from Welsh referee Ian Davies in the 32nd minute, which proved a pivotal moment.

The Georgians took immediate advantage of their numerical superiority as number eight Lasha Lomidze clutched a lineout allowing Georgia’s ferocious pack to drive tens of meters toward the Portugal line, before Giorgi Tkhilaishvili dropped down for an anxiety-relieving opening score.

The TV viewers then got a fuller understanding of the wild weather in which the game was being played as Kvirikashvili’s conversion attempt was swallowed up and spat back out by a powerful gale, meters shy of the posts.

Undeterred, the full-back would notch a try before half-time after a superb run and dummy from rising star Vasil Lobjanidze.

Kvirikashvili got the better of the wind this time, adding the conversion to ensure that Georgia ended the half with a 15-3 lead.

Though the opening 30 minutes had been competitive, Georgia’s superior quality had started to show and this continued shortly after the restart as the visitors scored a third try.

After lock Giorgi Nemsadze had been denied centimeters short of the Portugal line, he fed Zurab Zhvania who powered his way over to give Georgia a 20-3 advantage.

The leading margin was swiftly added to by the boot of Kvirikiashvili, now backed by that fierce wind.

Only three minutes of the second-half has passed and the Portuguese would have been entitled to fear a humbling reverse at this point.

However, the Lelos would only add one more try to their tally, thereby ensuring a bonus point, as in the 65th minute Sandro Todua embarked on a strong run before setting up the returning Sharikadze to touch down for the try of the game, duly converted by the now composed Kvirikashvili.

Georgia is now preparing for the visit of Spain to Tbilisi on February 27, and the Lelos can expect a testing encounter against an improving Spanish side.

Spain have lost very narrowly to Russia and Romania in their two matches so far this year, securing two defensive bonus points in the process.

The match takes place at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Vake, at 5pm on Saturday 27 February. Tickets can be purchased online at or from the ticket booths at the stadium.

Alastair Watt

18 February 2016 21:28