x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Scotland forced to work for win against fearless Georgia

Underdogs restrict Scotland to penalties and and a drop-goal in the Rugby World Cup's first try-less affair.

Max Evans, the Scotland winger, is wrapped up by a resolute Georgian defence who prevented their Six Nations opponents from scoring a try during their 15-6 defeat at the Rugby World Cup.
Max Evans, the Scotland winger, is wrapped up by a resolute Georgian defence who prevented their Six Nations opponents from scoring a try during their 15-6 defeat at the Rugby World Cup.

INVERCARGILL, NEW ZEALAND // Scotland maintained their winning start to the Rugby World Cup but were pushed all the way by a fearless Georgia side in a Pool B match.

At a drenched Rugby Park Stadium a battle of the fly-halves ensued in the showpiece tournament's first try-less affair.

Merab Kvirikashvili handed his side an unlikely lead against the run of play before Dan Parks levelled the score.

From there the men in the No 10 shirts traded blows with the boot and with Scotland's pack on top there was only one winner in difficult conditions.

The Lelos, coached by the former Scotland international Richie Dixon, went into the clash after winning all eight of their previous matches in the last year.

But Scotland head coach Andy Robinson hoped his side's narrow escape against Romania would provide a wake-up call ahead of the second round clash with Georgia.

Scotland are ranked seven places higher than the minnows by the International Rugby Board and boast a 100 per cent record when captained by Rory Lawson following wins against South Africa, Samoa and Ireland — and now Georgia.

But the match left plenty to be desired with a make or break clash with Argentina due on September 25.

"The conditions dictated a lot today," said Lawson. "We came up against a big, old Georgian side. It was a workmanlike performance to put them away today.

"I felt we just kept plugging away, put them under pressure and took the points when they were on offer.

"We came looking to get two wins in Invercargill and we got what we came for."

Scotland defeated Romania 34-24 here in their opener on Saturday.

The Scots made an assured start to the crunch clash, but it was Georgia that had the first chance to take the lead.

Following some strong ball carrying from Georgia's colossal back row. Kvirikashvili dropped into the pocket but lost his footing and his drop-goal drifted left of the uprights.

Both sides enjoyed periods of pressure but were let down by mistakes inside the 22-metre line.

Georgia took the lead on 17 minutes when Sean Lamont was caught offside and Kvirikashvili slotted a long-range penalty.

Parks almost instantly had the opportunity to draw level but the inconsistent fly-half snatched his penalty attempt.

He made no mistake from straight in front of the posts on 22 minutes to tie the score.

Following a sustained period of pressure, shortly after the half-hour mark, Scotland edged into a 6-3 lead courtesy of Parks' right boot.

And he was at it again on 38 minutes with an opportunistic drop-goal to hand Robinson's men a 9-3 lead at the interval.

Scotland again started brightly but were thwarted by Georgia's courageous defence which continually forced mistakes from Robinson's men.

Parks was off-target with a 63rd minute long-range penalty account as the second-half stalemate continued.

Rory Lamont sliced through the Georgian defence on 65 minutes but the Lelos scrambled well and bundled Jim Hamilton in to touch.

But five minutes later Parks broke the second-half deadlock and stretched Scotland's lead to 12-3.

Georgia hit-back with a penalty from Kvirikashvili to reduce the deficit to six points but with four minutes to go Parks was on target again as Scotland held on for a hard-fought win.