Rugby: Georgia Lose to Wales at Cardiff's Principality Stadium

Georgia lost to Wales yesterday, with a final score of 13-6, despite a spirited second-half performance, Georgia’s burning desire to join the Six Nations is understandable. It is not just about who you play, but where you play: at the iconic Principality Stadium, watched by tens of thousands of demanding but appreciative and generous supportive connoisseurs. 

Where atmosphere is concerned, rugby venues don’t get much better than Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, and one wonders whether the Lelos on Saturday were overawed by the occasion. Welsh supporters had feared that coach Warren Gatland’s team selection could backfire, - he made 14 changes to the team that played Australia the previous weekend - but the home team started strongly, stretching Georgian defence with ease. 

Within minutes of kick-off, Wales twice found space on the right and soon forced a penalty, which was scored by fly-half Rhys Priestland. Georgia then conceded another penalty, and from the resulting line-out, Wales appeared to have scored a try. The referee went to the TMO, and replays on the stadium screen showed that winger Alex Cuthbert was held up by scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze’s brilliant tackle. Wales kept pressing, and midway through the first half Hallam Amos, with acres of space on the left, finally scored a try. Yet Georgia were gradually finding their feet in the match, and a few minutes later had the Welsh defending inside their 22. 

The Welsh defensive line was excellent, however, Georgia turned the ball over and Wales scored on the break. After some deliberation, the officials ruled the try out for a forward pass in the build-up. By now, Georgia were playing with more confidence, while Wales lacked discipline, and on 30 min full-back Soso Matiashvili scored a penalty, reducing the home team’s lead to just seven points. Just before the half-time whistle, the camera zoomed in on Georgia head coach Milton Haig. The New Zealander’s contemplative expression appeared to suggest he had expected more from his players against the second-string Welsh side. 

Georgia started the second half positively, and matched Wales throughout it. In the final few minutes, Wales defended with their backs to the wall. There was tension inside the ground as Georgia looked likely to score and tie the game at 13. Confusion broke out in the stands as well as, apparently, on the pitch when after sending a Welsh player to the sin-bin, the referee called uncontested scrums. Georgia went for a line-out, but conceded a penalty and Wales kicked the ball into touch. Welsh captain Dan Lydiate admitted his team had escaped a defeat. “I am just glad it worked out for us in the end. It was touch and go there for a minute or two,” he told the BBC. Georgia will take heart from a tenacious performance, but the quest for the first win over a tier one nation continues.

By Sandro Vetsko

19 November 2017 20:25