A brisk but dry day at Rugby Park saw Scotland take on Georgia for the first time since scraping through in the 2011 RWC.
Vern Cotter shuffled his pack slightly, bringing Ross Ford and Richie Gray back. Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson and Rob Harley made a dynamic back row designed to get fast ball.
The visitors came out hard, and secured an early penalty from some trademark carrying. The kick went to the corner, and whilst Scotland looked to have slowed the maul well, the ball spilled out and was retrieved by the Georgian no.9. The scrum half made Tommy Seymour look really silly and dotted down to give Georgia a shock lead after just two mins. The conversion went wide: 5-0.
Really Scotland just needed to start again, and the axis of Russell, Hogg and Seymour combined well, punching holes in the defence. Seymour made up for his earlier turnstile impression by retrieving and touching down a beauty of a chip from Hogg. Laidlaw converted from wide right making it 7-5 Scotland.
Ross Ford was really at the forefront for Scotland and carried hard throughout. His hard yards gave the Scots another chance, with a long floated pass from Dunbar being butchered by Maitland. Play continued however and Sleepy got another shot, this time dotting down. Laidlaw converted from the other touchline, 14-5 Scotland.
Georgia stemmed the flow with another penalty but it was all Scotland at this point 14-8.
The Georgian maul is a powerful weapon, but Scotland had their own crack at it from the next passage of play. The Scots rumbled forward and referee … gave a penalty try and a yellow card for the Georgian lock. 21-8 and a well deserved lead.
Laidlaw was dictating the play well and kicking like a dream, and another 3 points stretched the lead to 24-8. The Georgians got 3 back after a huge scrum leaving it 24-11 after 30 minutes.
Hogg was looking for work at all times, and a sublime chip and regather saw the fullback cross the line on 35 mins for another Scotland try – converted again by Laidlaw.
Half-time: Scotland 31-11 Georgia
Scotland started the second 40 with real energy and another lovely break from Hogg gave Scotland a penalty on the 5 m line – Russell went into the corner and Hamish Watson smashed off the back to score a well deserved try. Great hands from Fagerson for the assist.
Laidlaw converted to make it 38-11 after 43 mins.
Georgia regrouped well though, and some big yards in midfield gave them a penalty.The only option was the kick to corner, and the resulting maul was brilliantly defended, stripped and cleared. A great win fir the Scots forwards.
Scotland were definitely winning the breakdown battle, and another penalty gave Russell the chance to kick us deep into Georgia territory. The lineout was again well taken and a penalty was given as the Georgians desperately defended. Same tactic, but this time the lineout was lost. Georgia cleared well but they were really hanging on.
Georgia do have talent across the 15, and when the backs finally got the ball they looked very dangerous. Another penalty conceded by Scotland saw the Georgians go to the scrum. Another penalty, another scrum and Georgia rumbled over with no.9 scoring his second. What a pack the eastern Europeans have! The conversion missed to the left, leaving it 38-16 with 25 minutes to play.
Georgia were being roared on by their support, and were certainly giving them plenty to cheer with some outstanding defence. Scotland continued to probe with some half breaks, but were repelled by good cover defence from the Lelos. The game was at this point really scrappy, with plenty of errors from both sides.
Georgia continued to dominate the scrum, and another penalty say the reds back on the 5m line once more. Scotland managed to steal the lineout, making the decision not to go for another scrum all the more puzzling. This theory was further enhanced with 2 more bulldozing scrums resulting in a yellow for Moray Low.
With 8 minutes left, we finally go the international debut of Ali Price. The young Warriors scrum half replaced Greig Laidlaw, perhaps later than expected given the score. John Barclay took over as captain.
Young Price introduced himself to international rugby in some style, with an amazing break supported by Rory Hughes who then popped it to Hogg to score a sensational breakaway try. Russell missed the extras but the final score was a satisfactory 43-16 to Scotland.
Full-time: Scotland 43 – 16 Georgia
SRBlog Man of the Match – Ryan Wilson got the sponsors award but our Scottish Rugby Blog award goes to Stuart Hogg who was in scintilating form. Honourable mentions to Watson, Johnny Gray and Ross Ford.