Georgia produced one of the biggest shocks in sporting history by overcoming Wales 13-12 at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.
The Lelos have shown plenty of improvement this year, defeating Italy in July and nearly securing a win over Samoa last weekend, but few saw it coming.
Even though Welsh rugby is in the doldrums, Wayne Pivac still has plenty of talent at his disposal and was expected to dispatch visitors in relative comfort.
That evidently did not happen, despite the hosts going into the break 12-3 up thanks to a brace from Jac Morgan.
Georgia had opened the scoring through Tedo Abzhandadze before Morgan’s brace and were competitive throughout the first half.
They then turned up the intensity in the second half as Pivac’s men faltered. Sandro Todua’s try when Alex Cuthbert was off the pitch following a yellow card reduced the arrears and that gave Levan Maisashvili’s side real hope going into the final quarter.
Lelos controlled the final 20 minutes and deservedly won the match when Luka Matkava’s three-pointer split the uprights in two.
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It was one of the biggest upsets in the history of international rugby and will inevitably mount pressure on Wales boss Wayne Pivac ahead of next weekend’s autumn final against Australia.
Scarlets forward Josh Macleod made his Wales debut, placing at number eight, while other changes from the squad that beat Argentina last weekend included departures for Rhys Priestland, winger Josh Adams and lock Ben Carter.
Abzhandadze put Georgia ahead after two minutes, before full-back Davit Niniashvili set up a thrilling counter-attack as the visitors settled in impressive fashion.
By comparison, Wales were slow to come out of the blocks, but began to apply pressure inside Georgia’s 22, with winger Alex Cuthbert closing in after two lineout shots well defended by the visitors.
But Wales pounced in the 20th minute after block Adam Beard won the ball in a lineout and flanker Morgan leapt over for a try which Priestland converted, making it 7-3.
Morgan scored again just three minutes later when he collected a pass from scrum-half Tomos Williams, building impressively on his outstanding display against Argentina after coming on as a first-half substitute.
Wales thought they had scored again eight minutes before the break when Adams finished impressively after a kick and chase, but Williams’ pass for him was cleared forward.
It was an outburst for Georgia, who racked up no further damage on the scoreboard as Wales led 12-3 at the break.
Pivac made an early change just five minutes into the second period, bringing up Sam Wainwright for Dillon Lewis.
The turning point
But Wales were temporarily reduced to 14 men when Cuthbert received a yellow card from referee Andrea Piardi following an aerial collision which saw Todua go down awkwardly.
Macleod then made way, with Taulupe Faletau taking over for him and making his 99th test match appearance for Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
Georgia dominated the third quarter, making use of Wales’ empty kicks, and scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze came close to a try which was thwarted by strong defensive work from Adams.
Wales were predictable, lacking in creativity and Georgia seemed to thrive on that.
And they reduced the deficit to just two points at half time when Todua collected a well-placed shot and uncontested cross, with Abzhandadze’s conversion making it 12-10.
Abzhandadze had a chance to give Georgia the lead, but he deflected an angled penalty shot wide and Wales escaped.
Faletau made considerable impact and appeared to have set up a hat-trick try for Morgan, only for Cardiff’s number eight to knock over on the approach play.
The closing minutes were inevitably tense, especially from a Welsh perspective, and Matkava took Georgia to dreamland with his long-range penalty.
The Georgia players celebrated wildly and held on to win, claiming the biggest win in their rugby history, beating Wales for the first time and leaving the hosts crestfallen.
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The article Autumn Nations Series: Georgia overwhelm Wales with historic victory at the Principality Stadium first appeared on Planetrugby.com.