By Kaylan Geekie | Back Page Heroes
Date: Saturday, November 26 Venue: Rugby Park, Kilmarnock Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Final score: Scotland 43 (31) v Georgia 16 (11)
Scotland: Tries: Seymour, Penalty try, Maitland, Hogg (2), Watson Con: Laidlaw (5) Pen: Laidlaw
Georgia: Tries: Lobzhanidze (2) Pen: Kvirikashvili (2) Yellow Card: Mikautadze
Scotland thrashed Georgia 43-16 at Rugby Park scoring six tries to finish the Autumn Internationals with two wins from three. The game was won during a pulsating first-half display, as the home team ran the opposition ragged.
The win was the most complete performance this autumn and had Vern Cotter’s men played like this against Australia, they would have ended undefeated.
Stuart Hogg scored a brace either side of the break to go with tries from Tommy Seymour, Sean Maitland and Hamish Watson as well as a penalty try. Greig Laidlaw was flawless with the boot scoring 13 points.
Scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze scored a double and fullback Merab Kvirikashvili kicked two penalties but it was not enough. Despite taking a fifth minute lead, the Lelo’s were always playing catch-up.
The Scots matched the Georgian physicality but, it was their class in attack that won them the Test. The only area of concern was the scrum, although, with the home side’s dominance in all the other areas of play, it did not matter.
Scotland scored tries at crucial moments throughout the game; after they fell behind in the opening stages; five minutes either side of half-time and at the death.
The execution of the tries was of the highest level, coming from all over the field and from different game situations.
Vern Cotter had said he expected an “arm wrestle” against a “very tough, physical Georgia” but Scotland, undaunted by the challenge, raced into a 24-8 lead inside the opening half hour and never looked like relinquishing the scoreboard superiority.
It was the visitors who struck an early blow. From a line-out penalty, Georgia set-up a driving maul inside Scotland’s 22. As the drive began to halt, the ball popped out the back resulting in Lobzhanidze to change the point of attack.
Some quick-thinking saw the scrumhalf collect the ball, dart around the blind-side, beat Seymour’s weak tackle and score. Kvirikashvili missed the conversion.
Scotland hit back immediately. Seymour, atoning for his previous defensive lapse, chased Hogg’s kick and beat Lobzhanidze in a foot-race to the ball.
The move had started from midfield, passed through the hands from Allan Dell to Ryan Wilson to Hogg, whose pin-point kick was latched onto by the winger.
As with the previous scoring play, the TMO had a few looks before deciding to award the five-pointer. Laidlaw’s conversion was good and Scotland led 7-5.
The second came after some sustained pressure. It was Scotland’s turn to use the driving maul, which Georgia collapsed on their goal-line.
Referee Matthew Carley awarded the penalty-try after the first infringement and sent lock Kote Mikautadze to the sin-bin.
Kvirikashvili landed a long range penalty to reduce the score. Three minutes later, Scotland extended their lead when Maitland danced his way through tackles from Lobzhanidze and Merab Sharikadze to score. Laidlaw added the extras, 21- 8 inside the first quarter.
Scotland were matching the Georgian physicality at the breakdown and with ball in hand.
Man-of-theMatch Ryan Wilson, Ross Ford, Richie Gray, Zander Fagerson and Rob Harley, all carried the ball with authority, breaking first-time tackles and getting over the gain-line with every charge.
This collective effort from the forwards set the platform from for the victory, allowing the backline to attack with quick ball and on the front foot.
Georgia’s defence was being breached consistently and often, particularly out wide in the left channel and they struggled to stop the Scots at the breakdown.
Laidlaw and Kvirikashvili traded penalties but the momentum was with the home team, who led 24-11.
One area Georgia had the edge, was the scrum – an area of the game they dominated. With 30 minutes played they bulldozed Scotland’s pack for the first time, resulting in the three points.
If Georgia’s scrum was excellent, their kicking game was anything but. They fed Seymour, Maitland and Hogg time and again.
The source for all the Scots’ counter-attacks came from the back three and Georgia paid the price.
Not to be outdone by the two wingers, Hogg, receiving Finn Russell’s long pass in the centre of the field, produced another piece of magic.
The fullback sped up-field, chipped the ball over the onrushing defenders and regathered on the bounce.
The kick was perfectly placed and landed in-between Sharikadze and Sandro Todua, who were left flat-footed, looking at each other bemused while Hogg raced to the try-line.
The captain added the extras and the Scots went into the break with a 20 point lead.
The talk in the dressing-room would have been about keeping the pressure on the opposition and to keep up the intensity.
The first half had not been without incident. Georgia had let their frustration get the better of themselves, resulting in several off-the-ball scuffles.
This continued and the visitors were penalised for cynical play when Giorgi Nemsadze was penalised for shirt-tugging.
Russell kicked to the corner and the forwards set-up another driving maul, sucking-in defenders from around the fringes.
Fagerson recycled the ball from Richie Gray and delivered to Watson, in the fashion of a quarterback feeding a runningback behind the line of scrimmage.
The flanker oblidged and from close range, bashed through on the run to score and put the game beyond reach.
This did not dishearten the travelling away support. Chants of “lelos” (the team’s nickname and also means try) rang out on every Georgia attack as the away fans urged their heroes on.
An attacking scrum was capitalised on by their pack and powerful drive pushed Scotland’s pack over their goal-line.
The referee was about to blow for a penalty try but allowed Lobzhanidze to gather the loose ball and dive over for his second.
Georgia were tiring and could be seen with hands on heads at every break in play. Scotland, clearly the fitter team, did not relent.
Both coaches had emptied the bench. Ali Price on debut, replaced the skipper, took a quick-tap penalty and burst through the off-side defenders before he offloaded to fellow substitute, Rory Hughes.
Hughes’ speed did for Georgia and Hogg, in support, was on hand to collect the pass and run in untouched to score his second and complete the rout. Next stop, Six Nations.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Moray Low, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 John Barclay, 21 Ali Price, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Rory Hughes.
Georgia: 15 Merab Kvirikashvili, 14 Giorgi Aptsiauri, 13 Merab Sharikadze, 12 Tamaz Mtchedlidze, 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Lasha Malaghuradze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Bitsadze, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze (captain), 6 Vito Kolelishvili, 5 Giorgi Nemsadze, 4 Kote Mikautadze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Badri Alkhazashvili, 17 Kakha Asieshvili, 18 Dudu Kubriashvili, 19 Lasha Lomidze, 20 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Beka Tsiklauri, 23 Shalva Sutiashvili
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Dan Jones (Wales)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)