Saturday, September 15, 2007

Georgia Stun Ireland

Ireland were expected to cruise through their match against Georgia, at least on paper. How different the reality turned out to be!

They made a nervous start, with Ireland making unforced errors, while Georgia held their own in defence. A missed penalty opportunity only made things worse for the men in green, but they calmed down a little when Hooker Rory Best [left] crossed the line in the 16th minute, with Ronan O'Gara adding the extras. 7-0 looked respectable at last. But it was another 20 minutes before more points were scored.

This time, Georgia turned over possession, made a great break and won a penalty, David Wallace [right] being sent to the bin for 10 minutes for cynical play. Merab Kvirikashvili took the points and they went in 7-3 at half time.

You would have thought that Eddie O'Sullivan would have given his side a rocket during the break, but the Irish came out in the second half still looking sluggish.

Things went from bad to worse for the men in green, when Giorgi Shkinin scored a fantastic intercept try, running two thirds of the pitch. It was an easy conversion, and suddenly Georgia were in the lead, 7-10, with only their second try in a Rugby World Cup game.

Around 49 minutes, Ireland seemed to wake up when they took a lineout and pushed hard. Georgia had some great defence, and the Irish knocked on! Kvirikashvili made an immense clearance kick a little later, pushing deep into Irish territory. Ireland conceded a 5m lineout, but it was overthrown and Ireland were out of trouble.

After 55 minutes, Ireland went on the counter-attack, when Girvan Dempsey [left] went over the whitewash with O'Gara taking the extras to make it 14-10.

The last quarter was pretty furious - Georgia never gave up and pushed up to the line several times, only for them to knock on or be turned over at the last minute. Sadly, a couple of drop goal attempts also went wide. The were camped in Irish territory for a good while too. At 77 minutes, Georgia did manage to get across the try line, but it was judged to have been held up by Ireland, truely a lucky escape for them.

In the end, Georgia, a country with only 8 rugby pitches and 300 registered players, so very nearly turned over a big scalp, only the luck of the Irish keeping them safe from World Cup ignomony.

It seems that 2007 is the year when the smaller nations give some of the big boys a fright, and it's been brilliantly entertaining to watch.

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