Ireland 14 Georgia 10
Georgia claims it invented rugby in the form of a ball game called 'Lelo' played in the mountains. Victory is achieved by getting the ball into the neighbouring village's square. Well, yesterday the muscular, ferociously committed 'Lelos' looked set to carry the World Cup ball high through all the villages of Ireland as they threatened rugby's greatest ever upset and one of the biggest in all sport.
Incredible stuff and quite simply a match that re-defined rugby as minnows became giants and the World Cup came of age as a global game that really can permeate all corners and allow all nations to dream. This was not even Georgia's first team and yet with four minutes to play they drove over the Ireland line only for the video referee to rule the ball had been held up and lucky, lucky Ireland escaped.
Early in the second half brilliant wing Giorgi Shkinin intercepted Peter Stringer's pass meant for Brian O'Driscoll and sprinted in from 75 metres and Merab Kvirikashvili's conversion made it 10-7 to Georgia. The men from the former Soviet Republic were simply magnificent. Ireland were awful and Bordeaux was rocking to the chant of 'Georgie'. Then an attacking Georgian line-out went astray. Ireland counter-attacked and full-back Girvan Dempsey, from Jerry Flannery's lovely pass, scored Ireland's second, and ultimately match-winning, try.
The Ireland team were anxious to get television coverage of today's All Ireland Gaelic Football final between Cork and Kerry. They might as well have flown back to Dublin to watch it, for they have no future here in France unless they wake up and smell the strongest of French coffees. To think this team has 810 caps between them, making it the most experienced Ireland side ever, which makes their lack of shape, pace and power incomprehensible, with only captain O'Driscoll showing any snap at all as the Irish moved as swiftly as grannies in the false teeth of a gale out doing their shopping.
Georgia dominated early territory and possession, with Nice flanker Rati Urushadze outstanding and Bidzina Samkharadze a bundle of energy at scrum-half. Georgia even had a try for prop disallowed Avtandil Kopaliani disallowed for a forward pass.
For Ireland to follow up the poverty of their Namibia display with this rubbish is desperately depressing for the Irish supporters who have painted Bordeaux the colour of its famous reds. On this evidence Paris on Friday and the pivotal pool clash between France and Ireland is set to be a dark, morose classic, Despite blaming an intrusive media for the immense pressure the host nation failed to bear on the opening night against Argentina, the French players cannot help treating every microphone as a confessional, unloading their angst like poets outside cafes on the banks of the Seine.
It took a desperately lethargic, disjointed Ireland 16 minutes to score when hooker Rory Best drove over from a rolling maul, but Georgia refused to buckle and when they can add correct body positions in contact to their natural strength, their stock will rise still further. On 36 minutes Georgia pinched Irish ruck ball close to their own line and wing Shkinin sprinted clear. Ireland flanker David Wallace was eventually sin-binned for killing the ball in defence and Kvirikashvili kicked the penalty. 7-3. Astonishing and at half-time the 'Lelos' dared to dream; the French crowd, with most of the Georgian squad plying their trade with French clubs, rose to acclaim them.
Stade de France on Friday is set to be a classic, unless both sides are paralysed by nerves and the enormity of the occasion.
Despite blaming an intrusive media for the immense pressure the host nation failed to bear on the opening night against Argentina, the French players cannot help treating every microphone as a confessional, unloading their angst like poets outside cafes on the banks of the Seine.
France have to beat Ireland or face a lynch mob chasing them through Paris. If France win, Ireland will have to beat the Pumas at the Parc des Princes in their final pool game and then the calculators could come out, if the three big guns - or on current form one big gun in Argentina and two minnows in Ireland and France - end up on equal points.
|Match details Scores: 5-0 Best try 7-0 O'Gara con 7-3 Kvirikashvili pen 7-8 Shkinin try 7-10 Kvirikashvili con 12-10 Dempsey try 14-10 O'Gara con
Ireland: G Dempsey; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, D Hickie; R O'Gara, P Stringer (I Boss 69); M Horan, R Best (J Flannery 52), J Hayes (S Best 65), D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, S Easterby (N Best 72), D Wallace, D Leamy
Georgia: O Barkalaia (I Machkhaneli 34); G Shkinin, M Urjukashvili, D Kacharava, G Elizbarashvili (O Eloshvili 50); M Kvirikashvili, B Samkharadze (I Abuseridze 73); M Magrakvelidze (A Giorgadze 47), G Shvelidze, A Kopaliani (D Khinchagashvili 47), I Zedginidze (capt, L Datunashvili 31) ), M Gorgodze, I Maisuradze (Z Maisuradze 57), R Urushadze, G Chkhaidze
Referee: W Barnes (England)