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Wales seal Pool C top spot

MATCH REPORT: Wales held off a furious fightback from Georgia to top Pool C with a 48-19 victory on Saturday.

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Warren Gatland’s team outscored Georgia six tries to three at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes.

However, it was far from smooth sailing for the Welsh, who will now play the winners of the showdown between Argentina and Japan, who play in Nantes on Sunday, in the quarterfinals in Marseille next weekend.

There will be loads of work heading into the quarterfinals, while the injury blow added another concern for Gatland.

Ahead of the kick-off, flyhalf Gareth Anscombe was withdrawn from the fixture with a “groin aggravation”.

Anscombe was replaced by Sam Costelow in starting XV, with Dan Biggar on the bench.

For Georgia, this is the end of their World Cup campaign.

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While their defeat to Australia, an 18-18 draw with Portugal and a 12-17 defeat by Fiji hand them a fourth-placed finish in the pool which means they miss out on an automatic qualification for the World Cup 2027.

A cagey opening spell saw both teams opting to kick as they tested each other out.

A Tommy Reffell turnover spurred Wales’ first proper chance of crossing the Georgian whitewash, Sam Costelow tackled into touch as the ball was worked left.

Tomas Francis was on hand to crash over from short range after a kick to the corner, Costelow converting.

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Georgia roared back up the pitch, flank Beka Saginadze bouncing off three tackles like a wrecking ball before the attack was snuffed out.

Rio Dyer’s fine chase and tackle on Lasha Khmaladze saw Georgia concede possession and from a penalty Costelow’s precision-perfect pass found Liam Williams in space, the fullback stepping his way over the line.

Costelow converted and then kicked a penalty to stretch Wales’ lead to 17 unanswered points.

Georgia were not done, however, skipper Merab Sharikadze, back at centre in one of five changes from last week’s loss to Fiji, barrelled his way over under the posts. Luka Matkava kicked the extras to leave it 17-7 at half-time.

Wales struck within two minutes of the restart, George North picking up a stray Georgian pass to feed Louis Rees-Zammit for an easy run-in.

Akaki Tabutsadze was just bundled into touch as Wales failed to get a proper grip on the match, the wing then sparking down the left flank as Georgia pressed.

They had their just desserts when Vano Karkadze was driven over as the ball was recycled from a driving maul.

Yellow cards

Shortly after Davit Niniashvili broke clear of the Welsh defence to cross for Georgia’s third try and thoughts of that infamous 2007 World Cup loss to Fiji, also in Nantes, resurfaced.

Costelow missed a long-range penalty but converted a second try by Rees-Zammit, the wing settling Wales nerves after latching on to a clever Williams chip over a stretched Georgian defence.

French referee Mathieu Raynal then brandished yellow cards for Taine Basham and Niniashvili after the replacement Wales flank went in high, an act that sparked an all-in push and shove.

Rees-Zammit was awarded a third try after chasing a grubber, although he had looked to have knocked the ball on.

George North put the cherry on the cake with a late try to leave Wales top of their World Cup pool for the fourth time in World Cup (1987, 1999, 2019).

Of more concern to Gatland could be injuries to emblematic No.8 Taulupe Faletau and Williams, while Costelow was a late starter in place of Gareth Anscombe, who picked up a groin injury in the warm-up.

Man of the match: Our nod goes to Louis Rees-Zammit, who scored a second-half hat-trick of tries to help Wales to the win.

The scorers:

For Wales:
Tries: Francis, L Willimas, Rees Zammit 3, North
Cons: Costelow 5
Pen: Costelow

For Georgia:
Tries: Sharikadze, Karkadze, Niniashvili
Cons: Matkava 2

Yellow cards: Davit Niniashvili (Georgia, 70 – foul play); Taine Basham (Wales, 70 – foul play, high tackle)

Teams: 

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Dafydd Jenkins, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Dewi Lake (Captain), 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dafydd Jenkins, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Mason Grady.

Georgia: 15 Lasha Khmaladze, 14 Akaki Tabutsadze, 13 Giorgi Kveseladze, 12 Merab Sharikadze (captain), 11 Davit Niniashvili, 10 Luka Matkava, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Tornike Jalagonia, 7 Beka Saginadze, 6 Mikheil Gachechiladze, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Nodar Cheishvili, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Guram Gogichashvili.
Replacements: 16 Vano Karkadze, 17 Nika Abuladze, 18 Irakli Aptsiauri, 19 Vladimer Chachanidze, 20 Giorgi Tsutskiridze, 21 Gela Aprasidze, 22 Tedo Abzhandadze, 23 Demur Tapladze.

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: James Doleman (New Zealand) & Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

*Additional source: AFP

 

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