Georgia shock Tonga in Rugby World Cup opener

Vasil Lobzhanidze (2nd from R) is Rugby World Cup's youngest player

Georgia earned their third Rugby World Cup victory when they beat Tonga 10-17
in their Pool C opener at Kingsholm, Gloucester on Saturday.

The Georgian team was led by captain Mamuka Gorgodze and was a record-breaking
day for the east Europeans also saw their 18-year-old scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze
become the youngest player in World Cup history.

Georgia, competing at their fourth World Cup, had only previously enjoyed wins
at the showpiece tournament with a 30-0 success over Namibia in 2007 and a 25-9
defeat of Romania four years ago in New Zealand.

“Man Mountain” Gorgodze charged over a bulldozing first half try
to open up a lead which Tonga, ranked 11th in the world, rarely looked like

Kurt Morath’s penalty from 30 metres out gave Tonga the opening points before
full-back Merab Kvirikashvili, the only man to appear in all Georgia’s World
Cup matches, missed the chance to equalise.

But Kvirikashvili was soon on target. Georgia’s record points-scorer made no
mistake in the 20th minute to level the scores.

No 8 Gorgodze, who plays for European champions Toulon, led a brilliant scrummaging
effort by his side and put them on course for victory with a first-half try.

In the second half, Tonga set up a frantic finale. With Georgia making tackle
after tackle, Tonga finally found a way through for a try by left wing Fetu’u

Kurt Morath added the conversion to reduce Georgia’s lead to seven points,
with Kvirikashvili sent to the sin-bin.

But Georgia clung on for victory.

“It’s unbelievable, we were waiting and waiting and hanging on at the
end, we wanted to win so bad,” said Kvirikashvili.

“It was so much pressure, we had a huge team to hold off, we defended
like mad men, it was amazing.”

He added: “Unfortunately I missed a couple of important penalties, but
it turned out OK because we were everywhere in defence, we were all over the

Georgia, competing at their fourth World Cup, had only previously beaten Namibia
30-0 in 2007 and Romania 25-9 four years ago in New Zealand.

Although defending champions New Zealand and Argentina are overwhelming favourites
to get through to the knockout phase from Pool C, Tonga and Georgia kicked off
knowing that whichever team finished third would qualify automatically for the
2019 World Cup.

This was an especially bitter defeat for Tonga, who beat finalists France at
the 2011 World Cup and came close to reaching the last eight.

After Kvirikashvili had equalised, Georgia’s forwards, six whom play club rugby
in France’s elite Top 14, began to dominate

And Gorgodze, who drove hard off the back of a ruck near the Tongan line to
score the game’s first try in the 28th minute.

Kvirikashvili added the easy conversion to make it 10-3 to Georgia.

Tonga thought they had scored a well-worked try off a line-out through Viliami
Ma’afu but referee Nigel Owens ruled it out for a forward pass by the Pacific
islanders’ captain, Nili Latu and Georgia led 10-3 at half-time.

Kvirikashvili, from 40 metres out but in a central position, failed to reward
his forwards’ efforts in winning a penalty by pulling his kick wide.

However, a superb handling move involving backs and forwards ended with blindside
flanker Giorgi Tkhilaishvili going over in a corner for a well-worked try just
shy of the hour mark. Kvirikashvili made light of a difficult conversion and
Georgia led 17-3.

Final Score Tonga 10 (3) Georgia 17 (10)


Tries – Vainikolo
Pen – Morath
Con – Morath
Drop –
Cards –

Tries – Gorgodze, Tkhilaishvili
Pen – Kvirikashvili
Con – Kvirikashvili (2)
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Nigel Owens (WAL)



Merab Kvirikashvili; Tamaz Mchedlidze, Davit Kacharava, Merab Sharikadze, Giorgi
Aptsiauri; Lasha Malaguradze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mamuka Gorgodze (capt), Viktor
Kolelishvili, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili; Konstantine Mikautadze, Giorgi Nemsadze;
Davit Zirakashvili, Jaba Bregvadze, Mikheil Nariashvili

Replacements: Shalva Mamukashvili, Karlen Asieshvili, Levan Chilachava, Levan
Datunashvili, Shalva Sutiashvili, Giorgi Begadze, Giorgi Pruidze, Muraz Giorgadze


Vungakoto Lilo; Telusa Veainu, Will Helu, Siale Piutau, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Kurt
Morath, Sonatane Takulua; Viliami Ma’afu, Nili Latu (capt), Sione Kalamafoni;
Sitiveni Mafi, Tukulua Lokotui; Halani ‘Aulika, Elvis Taione, Tevita Mailau

Replacements: Paula Ngauamo, Sona Taumalolo, Sila Puafisi, Hale T Pole, Jack
Ram, Samisoni Fisilau, Latiume Fosita

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