Match report: Scotland 33-6 Georgia
Second half accuracy brought Scotland back from a 6-0 deficit at the interval to finish The Famous Grouse Nations Series with a 33-6 win over Georgia.
A record crowd for a Scotland v Georgia fixture took in the match at Scottish Gas Murrayfield for a final goodbye to their Scotland team before the Rugby World Cup 2023. In the first half, Georgia were the side to offer the most hope to their supporters before the journey to France before Scotland broke the resolute visitors down in the second.
Scotland were first to run with the ball in the 2nd minute, with Duhan van der Merwe making a characteristic break from the left infield, charging into Georgia’s half. Finn Russell then tried the cross-field kick to the right for Kyle Steyn, but the ball beat him to the touchline and off the field.
Georgia forayed into Scotland’s 22 in the 5th minute, as a kick from Luka Matkava was dropped into touch by van der Merwe. From the resulting lineout they elected to set up a driving maul, but Scotland’s defence interfered and a home scrum was awarded.
The first points came for the away side, in the form of a penalty in the 11th minute. Grant Gilchrist was penalised for not rolling away, and from just inside Scotland’s 10m line Matkava made no mistake.
Scotland were afforded a good platform from which to base an attack soon after when Georgia kicked out on the full from their own 10 metre line, but from the first phase Huw Jones was swallowed up by three Georgian defenders, who won their side a scrum.
Georgia then came very close to the first try on the counter attack in the 18th minute. Ollie Smith’s kick was fielded and worked from right to left, and Demuri Tapladze grubbered through. Finn Russell half-slipped in his attempt to recover it, but Ollie Smith narrowly won the race to the ball.
The visitors had their tails up, and worked their way to inches away from the Scottish try line. Scotland survived conceding five points, but had to settle for three with a penalty awarded on the left side, which was duly kicked over by Matkava.
Scotland’s few spells of possession in the opening half hour were largely short-lived. In the 26th minute, with the ball being worked from side to side, Ollie Smith found half a gap on the left just inside Georgia’s half. The next phase saw the ball find Nel, but he lost the ball forward in the tackle to end the chance.
It took Scotland until the 28th minute to enter Georgia’s 22 for the first time, which they did through a penalty to touch when the visitors were caught offside. A second penalty came from the resulting maul when Georgia entered at the side, and Ben White tapped quickly. But Scotland were going nowhere fast, and a knock on from Russell meant Georgia could work their way out of danger.
More opportunities were presenting themselves to Scotland, and Steyn found space in midfield to break through. He offloaded to White, who looked for a passing option, but nothing presented itself and he lost the ball in the contact.
A second Georgia kick that went out on the full, in much of a similar position to the first, and Scotland continued to attack the wings. Ollie Smith found the space on the right, but in the next phase Georgia were unlucky to knock on whilst attempting to intercept Rory Darge’s offload, leading to a scrum on the 22.
Scotland’s scrum was going well, and in this instance it lead to a penalty which was kicked to the left corner. The maul moved slowly forward and Scotland went to the backs, with Sione Tuipulotu putting Huw Jones through a gap. The outside centre was halted just short of the line, and from the next phase Russell found Steyn on the right wing. The Glasgow Warriors winger stepped round his man and looked to have scored, but the TMO ruled that he had knocked it on in his attempt to ground it, and Georgia survived to kick clear from the goal line dropout.
Looking for a score in the last minute of the half, a scrum platform gave van der Merwe the chance to run at the Georgian backs. He forced his way through the first tackle before being brought down on the right side, and Scotland went straight to the left where Dave Cherry broke into the 22. The next phase saw Darge take the ball in, but he was penalised for holding on. Georgia kicked to touch and then kicked out from the lineout to end the first half.
Half time: Scotland 0-6 Georgia
Scotland came out with thunderous intent, and Russell found space on the left before offloading to van der Merwe. Georgia won the ball back and hacked clear, but Scotland came again through Ritchie, Steyn and then Tuipulotu on the left. Van der Merwe then worked through the middle and got just short, and when the ball was worked to the right Georgia nearly got the ball back, but knocked on.
The resulting scrum yearned another penalty for the hosts, which was kicked to the corner. A second penalty came from the driving maul, and Russell kicked to touch again. The maul was almost over when it came to a halt, and when White found Russell he kicked to van der Merwe on the left who juggled before gathering for his 19th Scotland try. Russell’s inch-perfect touchline conversion brought Scotland ahead for the first time in the 48th minute.
A second try followed in the 51st minute. Again it was van der Merwe making the territorial gains, finding space on the left before cutting inside and being brought down less than five metres from the line. Bhatti and Nel were then both a blade of grass short before Darge crashed over.
Georgia then had a chance to retaliate when Scotland were penalised at a breakdown from the kickoff and they kicked to the left corner, but Grant Gilchrist stole the lineout and Ben Healy cleared.
From a Georgian lineout in midfield in the 56th minute, Matt Fagerson managed to hold up the tackler, creating a maul with the ball unplayable and leading to a Scotland scrum. Another scrum penalty came for the hosts, which Russell kicked to the left corner. The driving maul was repelled once more, but the forwards fought for the inches and Jack Dempsey went over just left of the posts for his first Scotland try.
A massive line break from Chris Harris came in the 65th minute, with Smith making the initial dart and finding the centre on his shoulder. Harris was brought down just outside Georgia’s 22, and the ball came to Smith who looked to find van der Merwe with the chip ahead, but it was just too far for him and went into touch in the left corner.
More and more space was appearing for the hosts, and in the 68th minute Healy looked to find Ritchie with the cross-field kick. He was brought down in the air by Akaki Tabutsadze, and the penalty was kicked to the left corner. Again Dempsey broke through a tackle a phase later and just couldn’t reach the line, but Steyn picked it up to finish under the posts.
Georgia came close to the line for the first time in the second half after a tap and go penalty in the 71st minute and a series of carries from the forwards, but the ball was clamped onto at the breakdown by Fagerson and Healy kicked the resulting penalty clear.
Scotland then broke up the right side through Steyn, who was tackled high by Mirian Modebadze. The penalty went into the right corner, and when Ashman broke out of the maul, the ball went to Healy who looked for the looping pass to van der Merwe on the wing, but the ball went into touch. But Scotland stole the lineout on the left and worked to the right before winning another penalty. Ashman tapped and went, and a phase Healy made a near identical pass to the left for van der Merwe, who this time caught and finished in the corner.
Full time: Scotland 33-6 Georgia
Scotland: 15. Ollie Smith 14. Kyle Steyn 13. Huw Jones 12. Sione Tuipulotu (All Glasgow Warriors) 11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby) 10. Finn Russell (Bath Rugby) 9. Ben White (RC Toulon) 1. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) 2. Dave Cherry 3. WP Nel 4. Sam Skinner 5. Grant Gilchrist 6. Jamie Ritchie CAPTAIN (All Edinburgh Rugby) 7. Rory Darge 8. Jack Dempsey (Both Glasgow Warriors)
Replacements: 16. Ewan Ashman (Edinburgh Rugby) (for Cherry, 53 mins) 17. Rory Sutherland (unattached) (for Bhatti, 53 mins) 18. Javan Sebastian (Edinburgh Rugby) (for Nel, 53 mins) 19. Scott Cummings (for Skinner, 60 mins) 20. Matt Fagerson (for Darge, 53 mins) 21. George Horne (All Glasgow Warriors) (for White, 53 mins) 22. Ben Healy (Edinburgh Rugby) (for Russell, 53 mins) 23. Chris Harris (Gloucester) (for Jones, 60 mins)
Georgia: 15. Davit Niniashvili 14. Akaki Tabutsadze 13. Demuri Tapladze 12. Merab Sharikadze 11. Mirian Modebadze 10. Luka Matkava 9. Vasil Lobzhanidze 1. Mikheil Nariashvili 2. Shalva Mamukashvili 3. Beka Gigashvili 4. Vladimer Chachanidze 5. Konstantine Mikautadze 6. Luka Ivanishvili 7. Mikheil Gachechiladze 8. Tornike Jalagonia
Replacements: 16. Tengiz Zamtaradze 17. Guram Gogichashvili 18. Guram Papidze 19. Lasha Jaiani 20. Sandro Mamamtavrishvili 21. Gela Aprasidze 22. Tedo Abzhandadze 23. Giorgi Kveseladze
Referee: Mathieu Reynal (FFR) Assistant Referee 1: Tual Trainini (FFR) Assistant Referee 2: Ludovic Cayre (FFR) TMO: Thomas Charabas (FFR)
The Famous Grouse Player of the Match: Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)