Tuesday 22 October 2019

Warren Gatland's Wales put Howley controversy behind them as they motor past Georgia in Toyota

Wales 43 Georgia 14

Wales' Jonathan Davies celebrates scoring their first try with team mates
Wales' Jonathan Davies celebrates scoring their first try with team mates
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Still, we wait for anything resembling a shock in Japan. It was never likely to come in Japan’s Motor City, but it seemed like after a build-up full of controversy it was worth taking the three trains from Ireland’s base in Shizuoka to see how the Grand Slam winners were making out.

On the eve of the tournament they were rattled by the news that legendary former player and long-term assistant coach Rob Howley was on his way home while the Welsh union investigated an allegation by the integrity unit of a betting firm against the ex-No 9.

An ashen-faced Warren Gatland was forced on to the defensive, his players were quizzed over and over by the small press-pack following the Welsh who were preparing away from the maddening crowd in the southern city of Kitakyushu.

It wasn’t quite Saipan, but in a country like Wales it caused a major storm and had ramifications for everyone involved in the tournament.

What made things worse was that Gatland and his side had to wait a full four days to get into the thick of the actual action.

Tonight in Toyota, they unleashed all of that pent up frustration on a Georgia team who couldn’t handle the Grand Slam champions’ pace and intensity during a first-half blitz.

Twelve years on from the day they came within inches of beating Ireland, the eastern Europeans remain a team hamstrung by circumstance. It's impossible to beat top tier teams if you rarely get to play them.

Four years at the U-20 World Cup has helped bring on their young backs, but their over-reliance on the scrum remains and some of their defending was highly suspect. They showed fight and won the respect of the locals in the second-half, but they were 29-0 down at the break. The game was long over.

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No doubt Howley was tuning in back home and he’d have raised an eye-brow when the much-maligned attack manufactured three first-half tries off set-piece attacking play.

Some will credit his replacement Stephen Jones, but he’s hardly had much impact since arriving in Japan midway through last week.

So, it was a comfortable win for the Welsh who move to Tokyo tomorrow for a much stiffer test against Australia on Sunday. That game will define whether Gatland’s men are serious contenders for the overall crown.

Wales needed a strong start in a fixture that looked tricky on paper.

With the top tier two side in Europe taking on the Six Nations champions, there was plenty of incentive for Georgia to perform but they made a nervy start and handed Gatland’s men an early lead with Jon Davies racing on to Dan Biggar’s flat pass to score within 130 seconds of the kick-off.

The out-half hit the post with his conversion, but nailed a straightforward penalty soon after and they added a second try as a neat set-piece move exploited poor Georgian tackling to release Gareth Davies and when he was hauled down as Justin Tipuric sauntered in untouched.

The move was so good, the Welsh tried it again and this time Josh Adams didn’t need the support as he took Dan Biggar’s inside pass to score.

When Biggar converted the Georgians found themselves 22-0 down and staring down the barrel.

Rather than accept their fate, they began to battle and their scrum brought them into the game but the purple patch didn’t last and on the stroke of half-time the Welsh moved up the gears once again with another neatly worked set-play move that involved Ken Owens on the pivot and finished with Jon Davies putting Liam Williams over in the corner for the bonus point try.

After the break, Georgia got the try their play deserved within three minutes of when Mamukashvili touched down at the bottom of a dominant maul.

They then survived 10 minutes with replacement hooker Jaba Bregvadze in the sin-bin without conceding, but Wales finally got their fifth try on 65 minutes when Tomos Williams won the race to George North’s clever kick.

Georgia kept playing and when Gela Aprasidze tapped a penalty after another dominant scrum and freed Otari Giorgadze, the forwards took over and Levan Chilachava powered over for his side’s second try.

George North completed the scoring after good work from Tomos Williams as Wales joined the party and left the controversy behind.

Wales: L Williams (L Halfpenny 60); G North, J Davies, H Parkes, J Adams; D Biggar (R Patchell 67), G Davies (T Williams 48); W Jones (N Smith 57), K Owens (E Dee 57), T Francis (D Lewis 47); J Ball (A Shingler 62), AW Jones; A Wainwright (R Moriarty 52), J Tipuric, J Navidi.

Georgia: S Matiashvili; M Modebadze, D Kacharava, T Mchedlidze (L Khmaladze 78), G Kveseladze; T Abzhandadze, V Lobzhanidze (G Aprasidze 60); M Nariashvili (capt) (G Gogichashvili 47), S Mamakashvili (J Bregvadze 47), B Gigashgvili (L Chilachava 47-79); G Nemadze, K Milautadze (S Sutiashvili 51); G Tkhilaishvili (B Saginadze 58), M Gorgodze (O Giorgadze 60), B Gorgadze.

Referee: L Pearce (England).

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