Wales scores 6 tries, beats Georgia 43-14 at Rugby World Cup
TOYOTA, Japan (AP) — Wales opened its Rugby World Cup campaign by beating Georgia 43-14 on Monday in a contest which became much more even in the second half.
The Six Nations champion had the result — and four-tries bonus point — locked up by halftime at 29-0. A giant win seemed inevitable but Wales' intensity dropped while Georgia's pride drove it to split the four tries in the second half.
Warren Gatland felt his side targeted Georgia effectively.
"We were pretty clinical," Gatland said. "We executed a number of set-piece opportunities. No disrespect to Georgia, but I like to think we're good enough to score off a number of opportunities."
Tries from center Jonathan Davies in the second minute, flanker Justin Tipuric, left winger Josh Adams, and fullback Liam Williams had Welsh supporters singing.
But Georgia gave its own fans something to be proud of with a spirited second-half comeback which produced two tries following impressive work from the forwards.
After a converted effort from hooker Shalva Mamukashvili soon after the restart, Georgia resisted for 10 minutes without conceding any points while Jaba Bregvadze was sin-binned for collapsing a rolling maul.
Wales was in check until the 65th minute when replacement flyhalf Tomos Williams had enough pace to reach winger George North's kick ahead just in time.
Georgia's backs hardly made an impression. The pack, however, bullied Wales at times in the second period.
"That's what we have to lean on in order to perform even better," Georgia captain and prop Mikheil Nariashvili said.
Following a tap penalty near the left corner, prop Levan Chilachava bulldozed over from the back of the scrum for a converted try to trim the deficit to 36-14.
Tomos Williams then set up North for a late sixth try with a one-handed offload, and the powerful North broke two tackles.
The match at a humid City of Toyota Stadium opposed two forwards appearing in their fourth World Cup: Georgia flanker Mamuka Gorgodze and Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones, the captain, who equaled Gethin Jenkins' Wales record of 129 test caps.
Gorgodze's first moment of the match however, saw him fumble Wales' kickoff.
Moments later, Tipuric and Gareth Davies combined to set up the fastest try of this tournament, but Dan Biggar somehow botched the conversion, hitting the upright from right in front of the posts.
"He thought he was going to get a telling off at halftime," Gatland joked.
In the new half, pockets of Georgia fans were rewarded for travelling around 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles).
"We got into the match too late. However, I'm rather happy with the attitude we showed coming back in the second half," said Nariashvili, the captain. "The only regret I have is that they scored tries too quickly and without really having to try hard."
Wales got a penalty for collapsing the scrum, and Georgia gamely chose not to kick. From a driving maul Mamukashvili barged into a gap and the try was awarded following a video review to approval from the neutrals in the crowd of 35,000. Mamukashvili got a kiss on his bald head from center Tamaz Mchedlidze.
But momentum gained from that score was thrown away by Bregvadze.
Moments before the sin-binning, Liam Williams flew himself forward like an Olympic diver to catch Biggar's clever kick over the defense, but video review wiped it out for a knock-on.
Gatland's side next plays what is likely to be a Pool D-topping decider against Australia in Tokyo on Sunday.
"We've got a few things up our sleeves we haven't shown yet," Gatland said.
"(Australia is) a tough side. We've had some really tight games against Australia over the years. We tend to get better as a team as the tournament goes on."
Haig's Georgia plays Uruguay in Kumagaya, also on Sunday.