VIDEO: Wallabies stutter to unconvincing win
WORLD CUP MATCH REPORT: Australia sealed their place in the play-offs with a scrappy 27-8 win in Shizuoka on Friday.
While the Wallabies outscored the Lelos by four tries to one, a combination of wet weather and the Aussies’ own sloppy play resulted in the Georgians staying in the contest form just on 70 minutes.
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The Aussies fine-tuned for a likely quarterfinal against England with this error-strewn victory.
Wales’ 27-19 win over Fiji on Wednesday had guaranteed the Wallabies a place in the last eight, with the Welsh playing minnows Uruguay on Sunday in a match that should see them book the pool winners’ spot.
In blustery conditions and heavy rain as Typhoon Hagibis headed for landfall on Japan’s east coast, Australia were forced into a real arm wrestle by the hard-hitting Georgians in the two countries’ first-ever Test match.
The Wallabies dominated possession and territory early on, and successfully pitted their set piece against one of the strongest at the World Cup.
But the Georgians put in a mean defensive shift and kept in the game by seizing on a catalogue of basic handling errors by their Tier One opponents.
A tight opening quarter saw play see-saw between the two 22-metre areas, David Pocock and Jack Dempsey trading tough tackles with back row rivals Mamuka Gorgodze and Beka Gorgadze.
Veteran centre Davit Kacharava, extending the Georgian Test cap record to 119, took it one step too far, however, miraculously escaping a yellow card from French referee Pascal Gauzere after crashing his elbow into the face of a prone Kurtley Beale.
The fleet-footed fullback received medical attention before leaving the pitch for a head injury assessment, never to return to the paddock at Shizuoka’s Ecopa Stadium.
The Georgians repelled wave after wave of attack, notching up almost 80 tackles in the first 20 minutes.
But an initial break by Matt Toomua set up another Wallaby attacking platform and Georgia eventually wilted, scrumhalf Nic White burrowing past Mikheil Nariashvili from close range for a try Toomua converted.
No.8 Isi Naisarani spilled the steepling restart to hand Georgia the advantage, Soso Matiashvili booting a penalty after a high Tolu Latu tackle as the ball was recycled in midfield.
White and Toomua were key cogs as Australia continued to launch a series of forays from ruck time, but Georgia’s defence continued to hold firm.
Five minutes before half-time, Naisarani was rightly yellow-carded for a high tackle into the face of Giorgi Nemsadze, but it was Australia who instead got on the scoreboard next through Toomua’s second penalty.
After making a whopping 128 tackles in the first half, Georgia, who opened their campaign with a 14-43 loss to Wales, before beating Uruguay 33-7 and then going down 10-45 to Fiji, were going to tire at some stage.
But poor Australian handling meant the men in gold were never quite able to take the game by the scruff of its neck.
A moment of jinking brilliance from Fiji-born wing Marika Koroibete, who played for Fiji at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and swapped codes in 2016, broke the deadlock.
Picking up a loose pass on his left wing, the bearded back flew past two defenders and cut back inside opposite number Alexander Todua for an excellent individual try Toomua converted.
Against the run of play, Todua sent the largely pro-Georgia crowd wild, however, after he ran in his own try with nine minutes to play after a break by replacement hooker Jaba Bregvadze.
There were late consolation tries for Dempsey and Will Genia to put some gloss on the scoreline and give coach Michael Cheika plenty to ponder in the week ahead.
Man of the match: Marika Koroibete produced a stunning solo try and made well over 100 metres with the ball in hand. However, our award goes to Wallaby captain David Pocock, for his amazing workrate – making a nuisance of himself at the breakdown, making all his tackles and carried the ball with vigour.
Moment of the match: In a game of few highlights, given the rainy weather, this one goes to the Marika Koroibete try in the 60th minute – a powerful solo run that gave the Wallabies some breathing space in a match that finished much closer on the scoreboard than the Aussies would have liked.
Villain: It is easy. It goes to Australian No.8 Isi Naisarani – for his yellow card in the 35th minute, a silly swinging arm to the head of an opponent.
Tries: White, Koroibete, Dempsey, Genia
Cons: To’omua 2
Yellow card: Isi Naisarani (Australia, 35 – foul play, stiff arm to the head of an opponent)
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 David Pocock (captain), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda. 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmonds, 20 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 21 Will Genia, 22 Christian Lealiifano, 23 Dane Haylett-Petty.
Georgia: 15 Soso Matiashvili, 14 Giorgi Kveseladze, 13 David Kacharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze (captain), 11 Alexander Todua, 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Gela Aprasidze, 8 Beka Gorgadze, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Beka Saginadze, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Guram Gogichashvili, 18 Giorgi Melikidze, 19 Otari Giorgadze, 20 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 21 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 22 Lasha Malaguradze, 23 Tamaz Mchedlidze.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)