Two second-half tries earned Georgia a hard-fought 17-16 victory over Namibia in Exeter on Wednesday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Namibia were outplayed across the field, but miraculously led for the best part of 50 minutes. Then, Georgia finally made their dominance count with two tries in the space of five minutes to capture control.
With sustained pressure right on their own tryline, Namibia held out courageously in a first half that lasted well over 50 minutes. Flyhalf Theuns Kotze had given them a 6-0 advantage with two penalty goals, but still they could not wrestle back the momentum from the Georgians.
Namibia struggled in the scrums. Georgia worked their way into the red zone again just before the interval, and captain Gorgodze Mamuka called for a scrum. But Namibia, reduced to 13 players after two props were sin-binned for illegal scrummaging, hung on desperately to take a half-time lead (of 6-0) for the first time ever in a World Cup match.
At the restart Georgia continued to pile on the pressure when Gorgodze took it upon himself to crack Namibia’s resolute defence. The No 8 powered over from close range and Merab Kvirikashvili converted for the lead, which they never relinquished.
Flyhalf Lasha Malaguradze scored a second soon after. Kvirikashvili knocked over the conversion and a further penalty for a nine-point buffer, but Namibia again showed some steel to come back.
With his team playing with more urgency, Kotze knocked over a third penalty followed by a beautiful self-converted try to set up a gripping finish.
But Georgia held on to deny the Welwitchias, while securing automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup.
Namibia – Try: Theuns Kotze. Conversion: Kotze. Penalties: Kotze (3).
Georgia – Tries: Mamuka Gorgodze, Lasha Malaguradze. Conversions: Merab Kvirikashvili (2). Penalty: Kvirikashvili.
Namibia – 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 David Philander, 13 Danie van Wyk, 12 Darryl de la Harpe, 11 Russel van Wyk, 10 Theuns Kotze, 9 Eugene Jantjies, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Tinus du Plessis, 6 Jacques Burger (c), 5 Tjiuee Uanivi, 4 PJ van Lill, 3 Raoul Larson, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Johnny Redelinghuys.
Subs: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 Johannes Coetzee, 19 Wian Conradie, 20 Rohan Kitshoff, 21 Johan Tromp, 22 Damian Stevens, 23 Heinrich Smit.
Georgia – 15 Merab Kvirikashvili, 14 Tamaz Mchedlidze, 13 Davit Kacharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze, 11 Alexander Todua, 10 Lasha Malaguradze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Mamuka Gorgodze (c), 7 Viktor Kolelishvili, 6 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Subs: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Anton Peikrishvili, 19 Levan Datunashvili, 20 Lasha Lomidze, 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Giorgi Aptsiauri, 23 Beka Tsiklauri.
Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images