Georgia see off Tonga at Kingsholm

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Georgia got their World Cup campaign off to a fine start when they secured a 17-10 victory over Tonga in their Pool C encounter at Kingsholm on Saturday.

The result is a major boost for Georgia as this fixture is viewed as a shootout for third place in the group – New Zealand and Argentina are favourites to advance to the quarter-finals as the top two teams – which will allow them to qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

As expected, Georgia's forwards dominated up front – especially the scrums – and they outscored their opponents by two tries to one.

Georgia dominated the territorial and possession stakes for large periods and although Tonga were competitive throughout, they committed a litany of basic errors which led to their downfall.

The Pacific Islanders took the lead in the 10th minute via a Kurt Morath penalty, but Merab Kvirikashvili drew Georgia level ten minutes later whe he landed a three-pointer from the kicking tee.

The next ten minutes were characterised by several handling errors by both sides until Georgia's captain Mamuka Gorgodze stamped his authority on the game when he got over for the opening try.

The big number eight caught the defence by surprise when he barged through the middle of a ruck, close to Tonga's tryline, and dotted down next to the uprights.

Tonga thought they had got their opening try shortly before half-time when Viliami Ma'afu got over, after running onto a Nili Latu pass close at a line-out on Georgia's five-metre line, but referee Nigel Owens disallowed the effort as the offload from Latu was forward.

The opening 20 minutes of the second half was less intense as both sides battled to gain the ascendancy but Georgia's dominance in the forward exchanges meant they were more likely to score next.

They won another scrum penalty in the 50th minute but Kvirikashvili pushed his effort wide of the target. Georgia were eventually rewarded on the hour-mark when Giorgi Tkhilaishvili showed great determination to score his side's second try.

After a frenetic passage of play in which the ball went through several pairs of hands, Tkhilaishvili shrugged off two tacklers inside Tonga's 22 before scoring in the left-hand corner.

Kvirikashvili slotted the conversion from close to the touchline which meant his side held a comfortable 17-3 lead with 20 minutes left to play.

Tonga then stepped up a gear as they tried to get back into the game and they narrowed the gap to seven points in the 71st minute when Fetu'u Vainikolo rounded off after the Pacific Islanders set up numerous phases inside Georgia's 22.

Georgia suffered a setback as Kvirikashvili was yellow-carded for offside in the build-up to Vainikolo's try, but despite several concerted efforts from Tonga to score another try, their 14 men held firm on defence during the closing stages, sparking massive celebrations after the final whistle.

The scorers:

For Georgia:
Tries: Gorgodze, Tkhilaishvili
Cons: Kvirikashvili 2
Pen: Kvirikashvili
Yellow card: Kvirikashvili

For Tonga:
Try: Vainikolo
Con: Morath
Pen: Morath

Georgia: 15 Merab Kvirikashvili, 14 Tamaz Mchedlidze, 13 Davit Kacharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze, 11 Giorgi Aptsiauri, 10 Lasha Malaghuradze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Mamuka Gorgodze (c), 7 Viktor Kolelishvili, 6 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 5 Giorgi Nemsadze, 4 Konstantin Mikautadze, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Kakha Asieshvili, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Levan Datunashvili, 20 Shalva Sutiashvili, 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Giorgi Pruidze, 23 Muraz Giorgadze

Tonga: 15 Vunga Lilo, 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Will Helu, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Tane Takulua, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Nili Latu (c), 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Steve Mafi, 4 Lua Lokotui, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 Paul Ngauamo, 17 Sona Taumalolo, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Hale T Pole, 20 Jack Ram, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Latiume Fosita, 23 Sione Piukala

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

By David Skippers