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Ireland Hang On For Victory Against Gritty Georgians

Ireland Hang On For Victory Against Gritty Georgians

Converted tries in either half from Rory Best and Girvan Dempsey were all Ireland could conjure up as they were left hanging on for their second Pool D win against a determined Georgian team.

2007 RUGBY WORLD CUP – POOL D: Saturday, September 15

IRELAND 14 GEORGIA 10, Stade Chaban Delmas (Att: 32,000)

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Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Rory Best, Girvan Dempsey; Cons: Ronan O’Gara 2
Georgia: Try: Giorgi Shkinin; Con: Merab Kvirikashvili; Pen: Merab Kvirikashvili

MatchDay Live – As It Happened

For a while, Ireland looked like they might succumb to one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history as an intercept try from man of the match Giorgi Shkinin sprung Georgia into a 10-7 lead, shortly after the half-time break.

But Girvan Dempsey’s 55th-minute try – the full-back’s second ever World Cup try – proved crucial as it helped a below par Ireland regain the lead and ultimately hold on for a win that seems them remain second in the Pool D standings.

Nonetheless, despite fielding the same team that destroyed England at Croke Park in this year’s Six Nations, Ireland again worryingly struggled for form against one of world rugby’s lesser nations.

There were signs of an improvement from last Sunday’s opening pool win over Namibia but starved of possession, Eddie O’Sullivan’s men struggled in the second half. They were nearly made to pay as Georgia pounded away at the try line, had a television match official decision go against them and missed a series of drop goal attempts.

Another score and Georgia, given their dominance in the final quarter, would probably have won, handing Ireland a massive dose of the Bordeaux blues.

As it is, Ireland are still on course to make the quarter-finals and will quickly turn their attentions to the blue-shirted hosts, France, whom they meet in a crunch clash at Stade de France next Friday.

They will have to raise their game by a massive percentage to beat the French, every one of the players and management staff knows that and the hope has to be that – against top quality opposition in the Six Nations champions – the team will rise to the occasion.

Tonight’s game began poorly for Ireland and Georgia would have hit the front in the third-minute only for out-half Merab Kvirikashvili to miss his first penalty attempt of the tie, a difficult shot from near the left sideline.

The Georgians physically imposed themselves in the early stages but the scoreboard was to remain at 0-0 for the opening 17 minutes as neither side looked to have the wherewithal to break down their opponents’ defence.

When the breakthrough did come it was Ireland who hit the front. Paul O’Connell secured lineout possession after Ronan O’Gara had kicked a close range penalty to touch, good positional work at the maul saw hooker Rory Best muscle his way over in the right corner.

O’Gara stroked over a fine conversion and Ireland were 7-0 to the good. Skipper Brian O’Driscoll was beginning to lead by example – three line breaks saw the Leinster man threaten to carve open the Georgian defence. Georgia held firm though and just as Namibia did against Ireland last weekend, the eastern Europeans bossed the closing minutes of the opening half.

O’Gara was wide with a penalty from 45 metres out and things began to unravel for Ireland when, three minutes before half-time, flanker David Wallace was yellow carded for slapping the ball out of Bidzina Samkharadze’s hands in a deliberate knock on.

It was a vital moment in the game. Ireland were on the cusp on scoring their second try as the returning Shane Horgan pressed in the right corner, but Georgia snaffled possession and launched a lively counter attack which ended with Wallace’s sin-binning.

With their play gaining them the neutrals’ support, helped by the fact that most of their players are signed to French clubs, Georgia shored up the gap to 7-3 as Kvirikashvili bisected the uprights with the resulting penalty.

With two-thirds of possession in the opening half coming their way, Georgia could and perhaps should have been closer and in what proved to be a clever ploy which endeared them further to the crowd, Malkhaz Tcheishvili’s side remained on the pitch for the interval, leaving Ireland to their own devices in the distant dressing rooms.

Disaster struck for Ireland five minutes after the resumption when just as they seemed set to cross the whitewash for a second time, a looping pass from Peter Stringer found the welcoming arms of Shkinin and the Georgian speedster rampaged over from 80 metres out for a well-taken intercept try.

It was deflating stuff from the Irish who went 10-7 behind when Kvirikashvili tagged on the conversion. The increasing influence of Wallace and Gordon D’Arcy in broken field play helped Ireland answer back as the duo combined with replacement Jerry Flannery to tee up Dempsey for his try, which saw him shrug off the left wing challenge of Samkharadze to race over.

O’Gara added the extras for a 14-10 scoreline and in the end that was just enough of a margin to see Ireland home. The final quarter, from an Irish point of view, was both draining to play in and watch.

Georgia seemed to have a magnetic hold on possession as Ireland lost their shape and their wits as they allowed the Lelos to kick cleverly for touch through their half-backs and really take the game to the Triple Crown winners up front.

Drop goal attempts from Kvirikashvili and centre Malkhaz Urjukashvili sailed wide of the mark but the gallant Georgians were soon back in control off the drop outs.

Their forwards continued to punch forward and almost got in for a 78th-minute try, only for television match official Federico Cuesta to rule that they had been held up over the try line, with Denis Leamy the man preventing the grounding.

Time simply ran out on Georgia and although replacement scrum half Isaac Boss did his best to inspire Ireland in the closing minutes, they remained largely in their own half and devoid of ideas.

How coach O’Sullivan reacts to another flat performance such as tonight’s will be interesting. Will he make changes to the starting line-up for the French game? All will be revealed at the team announcement press conference in Bordeaux on Monday afternoon.

TIME LINE: 17 minutes – Ireland try: Rory Best – 5-0; conversion: Ronan O’Gara – 7-0; 37 mins – Ireland yellow card: David Wallace (deliberate knock on); 37 mins – Georgia penalty: Merab Kvirikashvili – 7-3; Half-time – Ireland 7 Georgia 3; 45 mins – Georgia try: Giorgi Shkinin – 7-8; conversion: Merab Kvirikashvili – 7-10; 55 mins – Ireland try: Girvan Dempsey – 12-10; conversion: Ronan O’Gara – 14-10; Full-time – Ireland 14 Georgia 10

IRELAND: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Denis Hickie; Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Rory Best, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Simon Easterby, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.

Replacements used: Jerry Flannery for R Best (53 mins), Simon Best for Hayes (66), Isaac Boss for Stringer (69), Neil Best for Easterby (72). Not used: Malcolm O’Kelly, Paddy Wallace, Geordan Murphy.

GEORGIA: Otar Barkalaia; Giorgi Elizbarashvili, Malkhaz Urjukashvili, Davit Kacharava, Giorgi Shkinin; Merab Kvirikashvili, Bidzina Samkharadze; Mamuka Magrakvelidze, Goderzi Shvelidze, Avtandil Kopaliani, Ilia Zedginidze (capt), Mamuka Gorgodze, Ilia Maisuradze, Rati Urushadze, Giorgi Chkhaidze.

Replacements used: Levan Datunashvili for Zedginidze (32 mins), Irakli Machkhaneli for Barkalaia (34), David Khinchagashvili for Kopaliani, Akvsenti Giorgadze for Magrakvelidze (both 48), Otar Eloshvili for Elizabarashvili (51), Zviad Maisuradze for I Maisuradze (58), Irakli Abuseridze for Samkharadze (72).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)