Wales end losing streak with win over Georgia
MATCH REPORT: Louis Rees-Zammit and Rhys Webb both crossed for tries as Wales ended their six-game losing streak with an 18-0 win over a stubborn Georgia side at Parc y Scarlets.
For the second week in a row, the Georgians defended valiantly and were unfortunate to once again leave an Autumn Nations Cup encounter scoreless but the improvement is evident with each passing game.
Wet conditions in Llanelli made the prospect of expansive, running rugby unlikely and Wales had to show patience to break down the Lelos, which they did as flying wing Rees-Zammit went over on his first international start before Webb added a second try late on.
The result will please coach Wayne Pivac ahead of a tough test against Group A leaders England next week, while Georgia have now been held scoreless in back-to-back weeks after having notched zero points in a game just twice in their entire history before the start of this tournament.
Victory means Wales maintain their 100 percent record over the Lelos – with three wins in three fixtures – and the young players blooded by Pivac showed enough to give him food for thought when it comes to selection for Round 3.
Just as England made a point of fronting up to Georgia at their strength – the set-piece – a week ago, Wales did likewise and their early scrum dominance was rewarded with a Callum Sheedy penalty for a 3-0 lead.
When another penalty off first-phase scrum ball was earned midway through the first half, Wales spent the next five minutes camped within metres of the Georgian line and eventually made the breakthrough when Sheedy fired the ball wide to Rees-Zammit to slide over in the corner.
Sheedy added the tricky conversion before Georgia had their first sustained spell of pressure in the Welsh half but Jake Ball successfully disrupted a Lelos maul to maintain the shutout.
The visitors had an even better opportunity to get their first points just before the break when Kieran Hardy was pinged for not rolling away but Tedo Abzhandadze’s attempt from the tee curled wide of the left upright to leave the half-time score at 10-0.
At just ten points behind, Georgia were still in the game heading into the second half and an early foray into the Wales 22 looked promising but a knock-on gave the hosts a reprieve, enabling them to clear.
And Pivac’s men took advantage as a 51st-minute penalty bang in front of the posts was slotted through the uprights by Sheedy to extend the advantage.
Rees-Zammit showed off his silky footwork with a winding run that saw him glide past five defenders before offloading out of the back of his hand to Justin Tipuric – who was tackled high by Beka Saginadze, earning the Georgian ten minutes in the sin-bin – as Wales continued to probe in search of a second try.
That looked likely to come as the game began to open up in the final quarter, with splinters appearing in both defences, and on 75 minutes Webb finally crossed for the hosts.
Johnny Williams produced a neat show and go to make yards, quick ball from the ruck saw Sheedy feed Rees-Zammit and he flicked the pass inside to his supporting scrum-half for the run-in.
Sheedy’s conversion attempt drifted wide as Wales had to settle for an 18-0 triumph, which may ease the pressure around the camp following the six-game losing streak.
Moment of the match: Both teams encountered a number of nearly moments but Rees-Zammit’s try on 26 minutes was a relief for the hosts. They had dominated the opening quarter, especially at the set-piece, but only had one penalty to show for their troubles before the Gloucester winger did what he does best. The ball was worked to the left and Sheedy fizzed a pass out to the speedster who neatly finished in the corner.
Man of the match: Wales No.8 Aaron Wainwright consistently delivered some much-needed physicality in the back row across the 80 minutes. He was part of a set-piece that dominated Georgia and also made 82 metres on 16 carries, breaking two tackles in the process, as he gave his side front-foot ball with almost every carry. With fierce competition for places in the back row, Wainwright did his chances of selection in future weeks no harm with an impressive all-round display.
Tries: Rees-Zammit, Webb
Pens: Sheedy 2
For Georgia: NONE
Yellow card: Beka Saghinadze (Georgia, 55)
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Louis Rees-Zammit, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Justin Tipuric (Captain), 6 James Botham, 5 Seb Davies, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James Davies, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Jonah Holmes
Georgia: 15 Lasha Khmaladze, 14 Akaki Tabutsadze, 13 Giorgi Kveseladze, 12 Merab Sharikadze (captain), 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Tedo Abzhandadze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Gorgadze, 7 Beka Saghinadze, 6 Otar Giorgadze, 5 Kote Mikautadze, 4 Grigor Kerdikoshvili, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Giorgi Chkoidze, 17 Guram Gogichashvili, 18 Lexo Kaulashvili, 19 Lasha Jaiani, 20 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 21 Gela Aprasidze, 22 Demur Tapladze, 23 Tamaz Mchedlidze.
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland) & Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)