Ireland fail to kick on in victory over resilient Georgia

Munster back Shane Daly came on in the 63rd minute to become Andy Farrell’s 10th new cap of his first year in charge 
Ireland fail to kick on in victory over resilient Georgia

Ireland’s Shane Daly chips past Soso Matiashvili of Georgia. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

IRELAND 23 GEORGIA 10 

Ireland returned to winning ways in this Autumn Nations Cup campaign but after a disappointing defeat at Twickenham the previous weekend this was hardly the style of victory to raise supporters’ spirits.

Two first-half tries from Billy Burns and Hugo Keenan gave promise of an instant rebound from the woes inflicted by England eight days earlier as Ireland returned to Aviva Stadium. Indeed, at times it was a performance as bright as the fluorescent yellow on their new black alternate kit, with Ireland taking a 20-7 lead into half-time.

Yet they were made to work hard by a resilient Georgia side who kept them tryless in the second half and showed more going forward in this final group game than in their defeats by England and Wales.

Ireland were themselves looking to right some of the wrongs made in their own defeat to the English when the home side’s dominant performance was not reflected in the 18-7 scoreline.

Ireland's Chris Farrell is tackled by Georgia's Tornike Jalagonia. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Ireland's Chris Farrell is tackled by Georgia's Tornike Jalagonia. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Head coach Andy Farrell had continued his adventurous selection policy in these November internationals and among his changes from the side beaten the previous weekend was a first Test start for fly-half Burns. It was Burns who got Ireland up and running after just five minutes with his first international try, combining brilliantly with Chris Farrell to collect the outside centre’s out-the-back pass on the overlap to score next to the posts, the Ireland 10 converting his own score and adding a penalty soon after to open up a 10-0 lead.

Georgia were not prepared to lie down, though, and they opened up Ireland on 17 minutes, a deft inside pass from full-back Matiashvili to centre Georgi Kveseladze wrong-footing the home defence on halfway. Having created the hole, Kveseladze made the most of his opportunity, selling full-back Jacob Stockdale a dummy and then stepping Burns before scoring under the posts, a magnificent try and Georgia’s first points in three matches this month.

Ireland were not thrown off course, however, and after Burns slotted a 23rd-minute penalty, they did some attacking of their own after Keenan collected a Conor Murray box kick. It took time and Ireland were initially held up over the line off a driving maul that Rob Herring could not quite ground but off a five-metre scrum, Stockdale sent out a long pass to the right wing where Keenan was waiting unattended to run in Ireland’s second try. Burns’ conversion made it 20-7 after 34 minutes and it stayed that way to half-time.

Ireland’s CJ Stander and Giorgi Kveseladze of Georgia. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Ireland’s CJ Stander and Giorgi Kveseladze of Georgia. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

If Ireland had ambitions to kick on from there and rack up a score in the second half they were mistaken. All that accrued was a penalty for either side shortly after the interval, Ross Byrne having replaced the injured Burns. Thereafter, Ireland once again and for the second week running failed to find a way through a stubborn defence.

It was a frustrating watch, made worse by the stream of replacements from both benches and lifted only by the introduction of an Ireland debutant, Munster back Shane Daly coming on in the 63rd minute to become head coach Farrell’s 10th new cap of his first year in charge.

Ireland kept pressing for their first try of the half but were held up again from close range after another driving maul from a five-metre lineout. It was the closest they came to breaking the stalemate, a Georgian ruck penalty with the clock past 80 minutes won close to their line and celebrated as if it was a try. The reality was that it was an Ireland win but it was an awfully hard watch.

The 60-second report

KEY MOMENT

With a 20-7 lead heading towards half-time Ireland were playing fluid, attacking rugby and scenting blood as they went in search of more tries. There were twice denied in the final two minutes of the first half by refereeing decisions discussed below and that appeared to halt Ireland’s momentum. Andy Farrell’s men were not the same after the break, the second half proving a real disappointment.

TALKING POINT

Instead of restoring belief in this Ireland side after a difficult afternoon at Twickenham eight days previously, Farrell’s players merely compounding supporters’ fears with a terrible second-half performance that left the head coach just as disappointed as them. Farrell said the players lack the courage of their convictions and they’re going to need to discover them with one game left this year and the 2021 Six Nations fast approaching.

KEY MAN

Iain Henderson picked up the man of the match award as Ireland’s lineout regained its proficiency after bad outings against both France and England but it was also a good afternoon for another lock, Tadhg Beirne fitting in comfortably at blindside flanker and proving a safe pair of hands at the tail of the lineout.

REF WATCH

Mathieu Raynal disallowed two Irish tries and a couple more were ruled to be held up over the line. The first, a score by Stuart McCloskey, was ruled out for a forward pass on halfway to the annoyance of Farrell. The second was a potential try for James Ryan that Raynal said was held up but instead of going to the TMO for confirmation as he had for an earlier instance when Rob Herring went over, the French referee blew for half-time, leaving the Ireland players confused and frustrated.

PENALTIES CONCEDED

Ireland 10 Georgia 14

INJURIES

There was plenty of pain to go with the hurt Irish feelings. Hooker Rob Herring suffered a rib injury, Billy Burns felt pain in his groin during the warm-up but it resurfaced just after half-time while Conor Murray sustained a dead leg in the first couple of minutes. Will Connors went off for a Head Injury Assessment and will have to go through the mandatory Return To Play protocols and Keith Earls had a back spasm in the second half and had to be replaced.

NEXT UP

Ireland have one more game left in 2020 — a reunion with Six Nations rivals Scotland in a play-off for the third place of this Autumn Nations Cup.

IRELAND: J Stockdale; H Keenan, C Farrell, S McCloskey, K Earls (S Daly, 63); B Burns (R Byrne, 45), C Murray (K Marmion, 56); F Bealham (C Healy, 56), R Herring, A Porter (John Ryan, h-t); I Henderson, James Ryan - captain (Q Roux, 61); T Beirne (P O’Mahony, 61), W Connors (D Heffernan - HIA, 68), CJ Stander.

GEORGIA: S Matiashvili; A Tabutsadze, G Kveseladze, M Sharikadze - captain (D Niniashvili, 66), T Mchedlidze (D Tapladze, 64); T Abzhandadze, V Lobzhanidze (M Alania, 74); M Nariashvili (L Kaulashvili, 49), S Mamukashvili (G Chkoidze, 10-18 & 64), B Gigashvili (G Melikidze, 70); N Tcheishvili (G Javakhia, 62), L Jaiani; B Saginadze, T Jalagonia, B Gorgadze (M Gachechiladze, 63).

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)

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