Australia 35-15 Georgia: Wallabies begin World Cup bid with first win since Eddie Jones’ return
|Australia (21) 35|
|Tries: Petaia, Nawaqanitawase, Donaldson 2; Pens: Donaldson 3; Cons: Donaldson 3;|
|Georgia (3) 15|
|Tries Ivanishvili; Pens: Matkava; Cons: Abzhandadze|
Australia subdued Georgia at Stade de France to get their World Cup campaign under way and claim the first win of coach Eddie Jones’ second stint in the job.
The Wallabies have lost all five of their Tests since the former England coach returned in January, but found form when they needed it with Jordan Petaia, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Ben Donaldson crossing for tries.
Successfully negotiating their opener puts Australia in the early lead in a pool that also contains Wales and Fiji, who meet in Bordeaux on Sunday.
Georgia, with a November 2022 victory over Wales on their record and the home fans’ support thanks to a 12-strong clutch of French-based players in their squad, had talked up the prospects of an upset.
However, Australia were too strong, structured and ruthless to get bogged down in a battle with the underdogs.
The strength and speed of Will Skelton, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou and Richie Arnold kept up a supply of front-foot ball, while the hard running of Samu Kerevi and, in particularly, Marika Koroibete made inroads out wide.
Some wobbly kicking from hand from fly-half Carter Gordon will give Jones food for thought having already stripped his only specialist fly-half of duties off the tee, while scrum-half Tate McDermott’s apparent concussion – sustained in a collision with Beka Gorgadze’s knee – will be a concern.
Georgia will have a fortnight to review and reassess before taking on Portugal, while Australia face Fiji, two places above them in the world rankings, next.
Australia drew some of the sting from the encounter inside two minutes as Nawaqanitawase’s drilled 50:22 gave them field position and Petaia twisted though the tackles of wing Akaki Tabutsadze and full-back Davit Niniashvili to score.
Koroibete’s storming kick-return run set up a second try soon after with Nawaqanitawase profiting from McDermott’s blind-side dart and Petaia’s deft offload.
Georgia’s hopes of dominating the scrum to gain a toehold in the game came to nothing as a super-sized Australia pack held firm and even forced penalties of their own.
Donaldson, in contrast to Gordon’s 20% success rate in the Wallabies’ final warm-up Test against France, proved reliable off the tee as Australia ticked along to 18-3 after 20 minutes.
Georgia stemmed the bleeding and then came out fired up for the second half, with flanker Luka Ivanishvili loitering out wide to gather a long mis-pass and slide into the corner.
At 21-8 down, the underdogs belatedly and briefly began to snarl. Their resistance came to an end just as their hopes were highest however.
Niniashvili broke upfield to a roar from the crowd but, short of support, he flung a loose pass straight to Tupou who flipped a pass over to Donaldson to hare up the other end and land a killer sucker punch.
Donaldson picked his way though an understaffed defence for a second as the game ran out of steam with replacement Beka Gigashvili’s late barge over giving Georgia the final say, but little else, from the contest.
‘We’ve always been confident’
Australia head coach Eddie Jones: “We’ve always been confident about where we’re doing. We’ve seen how hard the players have worked and you don’t come out and play like that at the start if you’re not confident.”On what he made of the jeering whenever his face appeared on the big screen: “Obviously I’m not popular, mate, at least it’s consistent. You either want to be popular or unpopular, so at least I’m consistently unpopular. I can deal with that.”
Georgia head coach Levan Maisashvili: “If you watch our games for the last two or three years, we are not just scrummaging any more. Everyone understands you can’t only be scrummaging if you want to beat the top countries, because some games you may only have four or five scrums in total.
“We now score a lot of tries with our backs and today we created quite a a few good opportunities. We have some talented players and we are trying to bring balance to our game with forwards and backs, attack and defence.”
Australia: Donaldson; Nawaqanitawase, Petaia, Kerevi, Koroibete; Gordon, McDermott; Bell, Porecki, Tupou, Arnold, Skelton (capt), Hooper, McReight, Valetini.
Replacements: Vunivalu for Petaia (58), Foketi for Kerevi (41), White for McDermott (35), Schoupp for Bell (50), Faessler for Porecki (59), Leota for R. Arnold (62), Gleeson for Skelton (33). Not Used: Nonggorr.
Georgia: Niniashvili; Tabutsadze, Tapladze, Sharikadze (capt), Modebadze; Matkava, Lobzhanidze; Abuladze, Mamukashvili, Papidze, Cheishvili, Mikautadze, Jalagonia, Ivanishvili, Gorgadze.
Replacements: Kveseladze for Niniashvili (62), Abzhandadze for Matkava (69), Aprasidze for Lobzhanidze (52), Gogichashvili for Abuladze (52), Gigashvili for Papidze (41), Jaiani for K. Mikautadze (59). Not Used: Zamtaradze, Tsutskiridze.
Sin Bin: Modebadze (40)
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