Let me say this at the start and then I won’t mention it again. No one likes a misery guts. Georgia aren’t very good.
Five minutes in and Scotland got their first ever points in Tbilisi through the boot of Greig Laidlaw after Georgia were adjudged by referee Pascal Gauzere to be offside in front of their posts. Penalties 3 and 4 followed quickly as Scotland attacked at pace and Laidlaw doubled Scotlands early lead with another kick from an almost identical position.
Scotland’s first try of the night was only a couple of minutes later. A fine run in the midfield from Darcy Graham and the ball was recycled to Russell. He dummied and made a break taking out the Georgian defence. He passed to Fagerson who shipped it quickly to Laidlaw who gave it to Ben Toolis who scored under the posts. Laidlaw converted and Scotland were in the unfamiliar position of being 13-0 up after only 15 minutes.
Around 16 minutes a wonderful chip from the impressive Finn Russell found Hutchinson, who was making his starting debut and he took it forward before passing to Graham. The ball was recycled on the Georgian 5 metre line by Russell acting as scrum half. A couple of phases later the ball was back with Hutchinson who danced his way between 3 Georgian defenders to score a cracking team try. Once again Laidlaw knocked over the extras to make it Georgia 0 Scotland 20.
Georgia’s first attacking scrum followed shortly after the restart and they showed where their strengths by winning a penalty as Scotland collapsed it under pressure. They kicked to the corner from that penalt but Scotland’s defence repelled the almost inevitable maul that followed the line out and were eventually able to clear the ball downfield.
Scotland continued to dominate possession over the next 10 minutes without troubling the Georgian defence. Eventually Scotland gave up another scrum penalty under pressure from the hosts, who seemed content to win the scrum contest at the very least. This led to a bit of possession for them in Scotland’s half and a fairly long range penalty which full back Matiashvilli slotted to put them on the scoreboard. Georgia 3 Scotland 20.
A hugely satisfactory half of rugby that was dominated by Scotland in terms of territory, possession and points was rounded off by Greig Laidlaw kicking another easy penalty as the Lelos transgressed in front of their posts again. At half time the score was:
Georgia 3 Scotland 23
Georgia kicked off to start the second half but quickly found themselves back in their own half. Scotland secured the restart and when the ball was recycled Finn Russell, deep in his own 22 cheekily dribbled the ball through the onrushing Georgians, regathered the ball himself and then kicked long into Georgian territory.
Scotland came close again on the 45 minute mark following an intricate move off the back off an attacking lineout which eventually ended up with Darcy Graham being forced into touch only cm from the Georgian try line. They were playing with a penalty advantage though and with growing confidence opted to scrum.
Quick ball from the scrum found Rory Hutchinson via Russell and Kinghorn and the Northampton Saints man handed off one defender to score his second of the night which Laidlaw converted. Georgia 3 Scotland 30.
Sam Johnson then made way for Huw Jones and the Georgians made 6 substitutions. This reaped some benefit for the home side as eventually one of those subs, prop Karlen Ashieshvili forced his way over from short range. Abzhandadze kicked the conversion. Georgia 10 Scotland 30.
In the following minutes Scotland introduced Bhatti, Strauss, Price and Fagerson Snr and it only took a few seconds before the Zandbags were out.
On 62 minutes Finn Russell unleashed yet another sublimely weighted grubber kick that Darcy Graham chased through to score in the corner with only centimetres to spare. Russell followed that up with an equally impressive touch line conversion to extend Scotland’s lead. Georgia 10 Scotland 37.
The substitutions continued as Russell, McInally and Barclay were all replaced by Hastings, Stewart and Cummings respectively. The latter slotting in at Number 8.
Cummings opened his Scotland account a few minutes later as Scotland opted to take a quick tap from a penalty in front of the Georgians posts and the big second row forced his way over with a powerful short range run. Adam Hastings converted to make the score Georgia 10 Scotland 44.
And that’s it how it finished.
Job done then. Morale boosting win. No Injuries and perhaps the last of the questions answered ahead of squad announcement on Tuesday.
I said I wouldn’t mention it again but sorry, it is worth repeating, Georgia aren’t a great side. They’ll probably be happy today to have scored a try and won a few scrum penalties but they’ve still a way to go to be serious opposition at this level.
It was a physical test however and Scotland fronted up to deal with that. They were also pretty clinical and everyone played a full part.
SRBlog man of The Match; Rory Hutchinson did everything he could to get a Japanese stamp on his passport but Finn Russell was outstanding and is the Scottish Rugby Blog man of the match. I heard George Chuter say on Brian Moore’s podcast this week that you can’t win the world cup with a maverick at stand-off but Scotland without Russell are like Thin Lizzy without Phil Lynott. They carried on but it just wasn’t the same.