(AFP) – Sep 15, 2007
BORDEAUX, France (AFP) — Ireland barely withstood a late onslaught to scramble over the line against a dogged Georgia by 14-10 here on Saturday.
Despite fielding a second string side, Georgia stayed with their lauded opponents all the way and never tired in the second half as they did in their 33-3 defeat to Argentina in midweek.
But for a lack of clinical finishing, they should even have won.
Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan blasted his side after their dreadful 32-17 win over Namibia last Sunday but incredibly he was happier this time round despite almost going down to the most embarrassing defeat in World Cup history.
"It wasn't quite the performance I had been looking for but it was better than last week," said O'Sullivan.
"We pushed too much and the Georgians raised their game.
"In the second-half we kicked poorly and they ran at us. We showed a lot of guts. They have been two nervewracking evenings. But I hope it stands us in good stead for next Friday (when they play hosts France at the Stade de France)."
Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll was a bit more blunt about what he thought of their performance.
"It was a very tough game, and we didn't play wonderfully again.
"However, give credit to the Georgians they put us under a lot of pressure and once they had a sniff (off victory) they grew in confidence.
"However, on the upside we showed some resolve and good defence.
"Whether we need to make changes to the line-up, well we will have to assess things.
"But we need a considerably better performance against the French and it looks like we have to win the last two matches (they also have to play Argentina in the final group match on September 30). We always knew we would need good performances to get out of the group."
Georgia captain Ilia Zedginidze regretted that they had not turned their dominance in the second-half - they had 70 percent of the ball - into a significant amount of points, but was still a very proud skipper.
"It was pretty tough, but after the match against Argentina, my guys grew in confidence, and believed that they could rival countries placed higher than us in the world rankings (Ireland are sixth and Georgia 17th).
"I am really proud of my players."
Sullivan had told his team not to force the issue and Ireland were certainly more focussed, making fewer errors.
Georgia came out of the blocks firing and in the first few minutes they pinned Ireland down in their 22.
But after fly-half Merab Kvirikashvili missed a penalty, Ireland broke the deadlock on 17 minutes, kicking for touch from two penalties in a row before Rory Best was driven over from close range. Ronan O'Gara slotted over the conversion from the touchline.
Georgia would not be bowed, though, and came storming back.
Giorgi Shkinin, who last season played in the French fifth division, made a long break down the left, which culminated in a penalty for the Georgians after David Wallace deliberately knocked on, for which he was yellow carded.
More central this time, Kvirikashvili made no mistake, leaving the score 7-3 at the break.
Shkinin then stunned Ireland again five minutes into the second half, picking off a long telegraphed pass from scrum-half Peter Stringer to O'Driscoll just outside the Georgia 22 and sprinting fully 70 yards for the try.
O'Driscoll justifiably berated Stringer.
Kvirikashvili converted and Georgia, incredibly, led 10-7 after 46 minutes.
Three times the Georgian forwards pushed to within inches of the Ireland line only to eventually lose the ball. They also missed five drop goal attempts from good positions.
But tragically for Georgia, Ireland took advantage of some disarray in the Georgian ranks as Kvirikashvili was receiving onfield treatment to send Girvan Dempsey over for a try that O'Gara converted on 56 minutes.
But far from romping home, Ireland had their backs to the wall from then on as Georgia camped out in their 22 and the Irish had to rely on the video referee to avoid defeat as he ruled against a possible Georgian try two minutes from time.
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