14-man Wales edge Georgia 13-6 in Cardiff

November 18, 2017

Wales' Hallam Amos, right, is tackled by Georgia's Giorgi Koshadze during their international rugby union match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (David Davies/PA via AP)

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — A second-string Wales side barely survived another tier two team when it edged Georgia 13-6 in their maiden rugby test on Saturday.

Georgia, which had the better of a dull second half, put severe pressure on Wales for a tying seven-pointer in a drama-filled injury time.

Wales replacement prop Tomas Francis was sin-binned two minutes in, and Georgia wanted to utilize its dominant scrum. But Wales, needing a tighthead replacement, said the already-replaced Nicky Smith and Leon Brown weren’t fit to return. When Wales was allowed to have an uncontested scrum, Georgia opted for an attacking lineout.

That was smartly taken, and the forwards pounded the try-line for 10 more phases until flanker Lasha Lomidze was ruled off his feet in front of the Wales posts.

The let-off gave victory to a Welsh side with 14 changes from that which lost to Australia last week. They haven’t beaten a tier two team in the autumn by more than 10 points in nine years.

Coach Warren Gatland said they were not manipulating the laws. He said Brown had cramps, and Smith had an ice bag on a calf but the loosehead would not have been allowed to play tighthead, anyway.

“I can promise you there wasn’t anything from our point of view in terms of trying to manipulate the laws or anything like that,” Gatland said. “If Leon had have been fit, he definitely would have gone back on the field.”

Georgia counterpart Milton Haig said he wasn’t interested in taking the issue any further.

“That is not what I am about,” Haig said.

“We were obviously disappointed we couldn’t have a scrum. There was an opportunity for us to be able to at least get the draw, so I am a little bit disappointed about that.”

Georgia believed it could finally beat a tier one team for the first time in 18 attempts. Wales was vulnerable but the Lelos didn’t have a sharp edge to complement their forward power. A pack with more than 300 test caps, three times as many as Wales, pushed around the home side. But when it mattered, their scrum flopped.

With 10 minutes to go, Georgia had a scrum in front of the Wales posts. Tighthead prop Francis conceded two scrum penalties, and Georgia elected for another scrum each time. But on the next one, the Welsh got a big shove on, received a penalty, and cleared.

Wales looked like having the match well in hand after a vigorous first half it finished up 10-3, which flattered Georgia.

Winger Alex Cuthbert was held up over the line by Georgia scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze, who two years ago became the youngest player to appear in a Rugby World Cup, at 18. But the inevitable try came from lineout ball, flyhalf Rhys Priestland doubled round center Scott Williams and put in left wing Hallam Amos. Priestland converted.

Amos went over untouched again minutes later, but the 80-meter counterattack was ruled out because when Smith ripped the ball from Georgia hooker Jaba Bregvadze, the ball went forward.

Then a 17-phase play by Wales was wasted when fullback Liam Williams was penalized for holding on to the ball too long.

It all looked promising for Wales under the closed roof at halftime, but in a stop-start second half the Welsh lapsed into error and Georgia’s spread defense had them well contained. On the other hand, the Georgians didn’t show anything to worry the Wales defense.

Next Saturday, Wales plays New Zealand, and Georgia is at home facing the United States.

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