Tbilisi-Cup

Emerging Ireland battled to a five point win against a spirited Georgia side in a windy Tbilisi on Friday afternoon. Leinster’s David Kearney scored Ireland’s only try with the rest of the points coming from the boot of Ian Keatley.

Ulster’s Robbie Diack, Rob Herring and Lewis Stevenson were prominent in Ireland’s early play and despite playing into a strong wind Ireland went into a 0 – 3 lead through a Keatley penalty on the ninth minute following a break from Diack.

Moments later the Ulster No. 8 was on the wrong side of the referee with an infringement at a ruck giving the hosts a shot at goal but fortunately for Ireland the kick was wide and Ireland went further ahead on the 23 minute with Keatley slotting over his second penalty.

The game had a stop start feel about it with both sides struggling for continuity and on the 27th minute Georgia got on the scoreboard with a penalty of their own after lazy play at the breakdown by, the otherwise impressive Michael Allen.

Georgia were able to use the conditions to their advantage towards the end of the first half and a series of scrums inside he Ireland 22 saw the hosts force their way over for a deserved try after poor play from the Irish pack. The conversion was missed giving the hosts a slender 10 – 6 lead at the break.

With the strong wind at their backs, as play resumed, the expectation was that Ireland would kick on for a comfortable win and it looked that way when the impressive David Kearney handed off the last line of defence to touch down for Ireland three minutes after the restart. Keatley missed the conversion from out wide but Ireland were back in front with the score reading 10 – 11.

Georgia should have went back in front minutes later after a defensive lapse from Ireland coughed up a simple penalty but the chance was missed and Ireland capitalised on the 55th minute with Keatley slotting over his third penalty, after Kearney had been taken out off the ball, to give Ireland a 10 – 14 lead.

However, Ireland didn’t have much time to rest on laurels as three minutes later the hosts were back in front. Poor defensive alignment from Ireland and a disappointing attempt at a tackle by Herring left acres of space out right for the Georgian 10 to find his winger who forced his way over for their second try. The conversion was missed leaving the score at 15- 14 but the home side were beginning to enjoy themselves whipped up by a passionate home support.

It looked all over for Ireland as Georgia broke clear minutes later, after some abysmal tackling from Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan, but the chance was missed as was another penalty chance by the hosts on the 70th minute mark.

Ireland managed to regain their composure in the final ten minutes and the pressure told on the home side with an off the ball incident leading to a Georgian yellow card and another three points to Keatley to push Ireland back in front at 15 – 17 with minutes to go.

Keatley made sure with his fifth penalty, after good work by the scrum, to seal Ireland’s 15 – 20 win.

EMERGING IRELAND: David Kearney, Niall Morris, Eoin Griffin, Michael Allen, Tiernan O’Halloran, Ian Keatley, Michael Heaney, Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Michael Bent, Lewis Stevenson, David Foley, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Robbie Diack. Replacements: Niall Annett, Richard Lutton , Ian Neagle, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Noel Reid, Brendan Macken.

As I said in the preview I would have much rather have seen the IRFU diverting some of its resources to the Women’s 15 a side game rather than this set of fairly meaningless fixtures but I must admit I did find myself enjoying the game as it progressed – thanks in no small measure to the partisan crowd who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the occasion.

I though the Ulster players were fairly prominent in the first half with Diack, Stevenson and Herring doing the bulk of the work up front. Herring appeared to get a knock early on, which may account for his appalling attempt at a tackle for Georgia’s second try, but he had a sound game otherwise. Stevenson took on a huge mount of work in the first half and I feel they missed his influence when he was surprisingly substituted at the break and Diack was the only solid performer in a poor back row. Ruddock has failed to build on his earlier promise and Ryan was out of his depth and struggled to get involved.

Heaney looked sharp during his 55 minutes and Allen looked impressive until he was subbed on the 49th minute after a knock to the head. The Quins player looked to get involved at every opportunity, perhaps sometimes he was too enthusiastic, but the Irish defence certainly suffered with his departure.

Annett and Lutton came on in the closing minutes.
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VIDEO

Watch the full video of the match here. Click on YouTube option to view in full screen.

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TABLE

7/06 @ 20.55 P W D L PF PA PD TF TA TD BP PTS
South Africa 1 1 0 0 37 9 +28 6 0 +6 1 5
Ireland 1 1 0 0 20 15 +5 1 2 -1 0 4
Georgia 1 0 0 1 15 20 -5 2 1 +1 1 1
Uruguay 1 0 0 1 9 37 -28 0 6 -6 0 0

 

FIXTURES & RESULTS

07/06/2013 14:00 BST Uruguay 9-37 SA President’s XV
07/06/2013 16:00 BST Georgia 15-20 Emerging Ireland
11/06/2013 14:00 BST Emerging Ireland  – SA President’s XV
11/06/2013 16:00 BST Georgia  – Uruguay
16/06/2013 11:00 BST Georgia  – SA President’s XV
16/06/2013 13:00 BST Uruguay  – Emerging Ireland
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