KILMARNOCK, Scotland (AP) — Scotland doesn't do banana skin games anymore so Georgia was duly accounted for by 43-16 on an artificial rugby turf at Kilmarnock on Saturday.
In the 18 months before Vern Cotter took over as coach in mid-2014, Scotland lost to Samoa and Tonga. But on the New Zealander's watch, the Scots improved to 9-0 against tier two teams after beating the Georgians by six tries to two.
"It was a nice win," captain Greig Laidlaw said. "We scored 43 points and a lot of good tries against a tough Georgia side. I am pleased with our attack and the way we are scoring points and causing teams problems."
Scotland scraped past Georgia on penalties in their only previous meeting in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and the Georgians came to Kilmarnock with only one loss in 10 matches this year, to Japan, a result they were still struggling to digest.
Their reputation looked legitimate after just five minutes, when Georgia mauled from a lineout and scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze darted down the blind and beat two defenders to score. Just a year ago, Lobzhanidze was the youngest player ever to appear in a Rugby World Cup, at 18.
But Scotland's reaction was immediate. Fullback Stuart Hogg chipped down the left side and winger Tommy Seymour beat Lobzhanidze to the ball in goal. He didn't ground the ball but TMO Simon McDowell said it was a try.
Scotland didn't need the officials' help on a fast pitch suiting its backs. Within half an hour, the Scots scored three more converted tries to put the result in the bag and finish a calendar year with more wins than losses for the first time since 2010.
The Scots even showed how tough their pack was when they were mauling to the line, only to receive a penalty try when lock Konstantin Mikautadze was yellow-carded for collapsing it.
Winger Sean Maitland was next over, stepping off his right to beat one defender, and diving over between two more.
Then Hogg created a try from nothing. He chipped over the defense, Georgia wing Alexander Todua didn't commit, and Hogg got a very kind bounce to scoop up and race to the right corner flag.
The Scots went to the break 31-11 up. They made only five tackles (missing four) in the half, while Georgia put in 87 tackles (missing 14).
Regular service resumed straight away, as flanker Hamish Watson barged over off a planned lineout move featuring Richie Gray and Zander Fagerson.
At 38-11, Scotland eased up, and Georgia's pride drove it to even the match. It dominated for half an hour but could score only once. Thanks to a new front row, they scored a pushover try for Lobzhanidze, and forced Scotland tighthead Moray Low to be yellow-carded near the end.
But substitutions also helped Scotland. Ali Price, who replaced Laidlaw at scrumhalf, broke from a ruck deep in his half, replacement back Rory Hughes supported, and Hogg finished off the sweeping move.