Wales opened their World Cup account with a comfortable 43-14 bonus point victory over Georgia in Toyota today.
Four Welsh tries in a blistering first half put the contest to bed in what was supposed to be a tough battle, with poor defending and wayward kicking from the Georgians meaning Warren Gatland’s men cruised to a straightforward win.
The sides had only met just once before, at the Principality Stadium in 2017, where the visitors pushed the Welsh far closer, eventually losing 13-6. Today, however, failed to provide the same contest on a humid night in Japan.
Within three minutes Wales opened the scoring after a flat pass found Jonathan Davies in space, he dissected Georgia's porous defensive line and scored a simple try to kick things off.
It was Davies again involved in Wales’ next points just minutes later. The centre ran a great angle into contact, forcing Georgia offside from the next phase. Fly-half Dan Biggar gratefully knocked over the three points from 20 metres just in front of the posts.
Georgia were bad from the off and failed to recover. Having kicked the ball out on the full, Gareth Davies broke from a lineout on the half-way line. Justin Tipuric followed his shoulder the whole way and picked up from the resulting breakdown, broke through two poor tackles and went in under the posts for Wales’s second try.
Biggar added the extras and with 15 minutes gone the Georgians were 15 points down and had barely touched the ball. On the few occasions they did get their hands on it, some poor kicking from hand gave it straight back to Wales’ back three.
To compound things, Georgia’s defence continued to struggle defending off first phase. Another flat pass from Davies off a lineout found Josh Adams at full pelt via an inside Biggar pass. The winger burst through the line and sped off into the left corner for their third try of the night.
The first time Georgia managed to string together more than five phases – 25 minutes into the game – they made their first clean break. A cute offload to hooker Shalva Mamukashvili saw him power through, with flanker Giorgi Tkhilaishvili offering support. It lead to rock solid scrum and both Georgian wingers working well together in their first foray in Wales’ third, but slow ball off the scrum eventually led to a handling error and Georgia had nothing to show for their efforts.
With just seconds until the interval, Gatland’s side had their attacking bonus point. Davies ran across field and played in Davies, who again made yards straightening up. His pass to Liam Williams was picked up five yards from the try line and the full back went over easily. Half-time and Wales were 29-0 up.
Something was clearly said in the changing rooms, because Georgia started the second-half much brighter. Having engineered a rolling maul off their lineout in the right corner, Mamukashvili crashed over after controlling from the back. Tedo Abzhandadze converted well from a tight angle and Georgia were on the board.
As good as their maul was, Wales then executed one of their own that went 15 metres further. It was illegally pulled down and Biggar’s kick off the next phase was a whisker away from Liam Williams’ fingertips. The initial offence was enough to put the replacement hooker, Jaba Bregvadze, in the bin within seconds of coming on and make a tough ask even tougher.
That said, Georgia defended well with 14 men, discipline continued to be an issue with penalties conceded well into double figures even before the hour mark. They did, however, keep Wales out for the entirety of the sin bin.
As the second half progressed, so did Georgia’s line speed and intensity, but as the game threatened to peter out, Wales eventually got their fifth try. Throwing two passes out wide found George North, who kicked through for replacement scrum-half Tomos Williams to touch down.
It was immediately cancelled out as Georgia got their second score. A quick tap penalty caught Wales on the back foot and Georgia went through three phases at pace. Although they were stopped just short, prop Levan Chilachava managed to pick up and go over from a yard out.
With the clock ticking away, North finally got his name on the scoresheet, despite a generally quiet day. Tomos Williams’ neat footwork saw him skip through two tackles before North fended off two defenders and grab Wales’ sixth of the night.
Gatland will be delighted with his team’s first half performance and how clinical they were in taking their chances, killing the contest before the second 40 even began and with the Australians to come. Justin Tipuric was particularly good and will be vital up against David Pocock and Michael Hooper in the back row battle.
For Georgia, the game appears to be a bit of a reality check.
There is consistent rumbling that they should be included in the Six Nations, or at least have the opportunity to try, but they’ve remain winless against Tier 1 sides and games like this won’t push their case any further forward.
Defending like they did in the first half will make it difficult to win any game, let alone against some of the world’s best.
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