Georgia captain Mamuka Gorgodze led his country to just their third World Cup win with a 17-10 upset success over Tonga in their Pool C opener at Kingsholm, Gloucester on Saturday.
This, right here: this was Georgia’s World Cup, and as the final whistle blew on the greatest triumph in their rugby history, they celebrated fittingly.
The Lelos, as Georgia is known, capitalised on their opportunities and were the first to score after half time, with loose-forward Giorgi Tkhilaishvili picking up the loose ball to cross the line.
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This doesn’t bode well for their performance in the Rugby World Cup proper but Georgia coach Milton Haig believes the losses were “perfect” preparation as it puts the side under pressure to perform against Tonga.
“There’s still a lot of water under the bridge for that to happen”.
Georgia lost all three of their warm up games, finishing with a narrow 13-10 defeat to Japan in a match where they led from the 15th minute until the 77th.
“Today was pretty historic for everyone involved in Georgian rugby, and we are very pleased”. “Fitness-wise, we were able to sustain our defence over 80 minutes, and that allowed us to come away with the win”.
Although defending champions New Zealand and Argentina are overwhelming favourites to get through to the knockout phase from Pool C, Tonga and Georgia kicked off knowing that whichever team finished third would qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup. Tonga had plenty of openings and plenty of the ball – they made 156 carries to Georgia’s 56 – but Georgia executed their limited but effective gameplan to perfection.
“We have got to try to take their strengths out, and apply our own”.
A couple of television match official decisions, meanwhile, went against Tonga, and Latu added: “The TMO is there, and I think we could have more challenges – I don’t think we are losing anything”.
“To back up the Leinster victory with another over in Italy was important and I’m sure the guys will be enjoying a few days off now before they resume league matches early in October”.
“It’s unbelievable, we were waiting and waiting and hanging on at the end, we wanted to win so bad”, said Kvirikashvili.