Wales 18-0 Georgia: Wayne Pivac’s men finally end their six-match losing run as Louis Rees-Zammit and Rhys Webb both score in unremarkable Autumn Nations Cup win
- Wales replied after their 32-9 thumping by Ireland in the tournament’s first game
- Teenage sensation Louis Rees-Zammit and Rhys Webb chipped in with the tries
- Fly-half Callum Sheedy kicked the other eight points to secure an easy home win
One of the least memorable or remarkable Welsh wins in recent times came at a vital time for Wayne Pivac as he stopped the rot of six defeats in a row by beating Georgia.
The next team wearing white to come here will be England – and Wales will need to buck their ideas up sharpish to get anywhere near their old foes on the evidence of their post-Covid performances.
The wild west-walian weather meant that the youthful backline, of which five starters were 25 and under, could not show their burgeoning talents.
Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit crashed over in the corner for his first international try
But Callum Sheedy, who managed the conditions well, took eight points, Louis Rees-Zammit scored his first Welsh try and Rhys Webb took another as the set-piece improved markedly against the Georgians who have not yet scored a point in this tournament.
This inevitable victory is welcome for Pivac, but the acid Test comes against the English next week. He cannot afford to get badly burnt then.
With Justin Tipuric knocked out he might need to find an entirely new back-row, with Taulupe Faletau (knee) and Josh Navidi (concussion) still not yet fit.
Bringing in James Botham – the grandson of England cricket legend Ian – was a clever ploy by Pivac and Co.
The debutant deserved his early cap, but also it took so much of the focus away from Wales and how desperate they have been in recent weeks.
A win was crucial here against a Georgian side who had never beaten traditional ‘Tier 1’ opposition in 25 previous attempts. Defeat was never on the cards.
Pivac made 13 changes after the Ireland evisceration, as he had planned, handing debuts to Botham, Johnny Williams, Kieran Hardy and later Ioan Lloyd and used a backline he had largely discovered himself save for Liam Williams.
His new men rewarded him in the first half. Johnny Williams – who this time last year was recovering from testicular cancer – looks the man to straighten the Welsh line from No 12.
He carried hard into big Georgians to allow space for others. Sheedy barked to everyone, was the loudest player on the pitch, and looks the future.
James Botham, grandson of England cricket legend Ian, enjoyed a stress-free Wales debut
For Rees-Zammit’s try Nick Tompkins carried near to the line to drag the men in for the 19-year-old to be afforded room on the left, and the Gloucester wing went over on the left.
That came 25 minutes in, 15 after Sheedy had hit a penalty, and the fly-half whacked over the wide conversion to take the Welsh lead to 10-0 at half-time.
Periodically in the first half a few ghostly renditions of the songs we know from Cardiff Test days drifted in with the wind – the Parc y Scarlets DJ clearly told to stick on the CD they sell in the gift shop to help rouse the team with no one here.
They did look better, albeit against vastly inferior opposition. The set-piece horror-show in Dublin was shored up by two wall-like men in Wyn Jones and Samson Lee – Pivac saying before he had picked them as Wales’ best two scrummagers.
There is a slightly outdated view of Georgia as the most formidable pack in the world; they might have been up there in years gone by, but having been torn to bits up front by Scotland, England and now with Wales winning penalties off them too those days are behind Los Lelos for now.
In the second-half Wales needed to kick on. It was a stodgy old night, though, with squalling rain dampening what was already a limp spectacle in these Covid times.
Wayne Pivac will no doubt be a relieved man after Wales ended their six-match losing run
The pre-match puddle in the middle of the pitch became boggy as the game wore on, so maybe it was a night to kick goals, win and find the nearest rousing cup of cocoa afterwards.
Unfortunately for Wales Sheedy missed his next one – perhaps not used to the way the wind blows five different directions at once here – but took the next from in front.
Then after a typically electric break from Rees-Zammit he fed Tipuric and the captain was knocked out cold. To his credit referee Luke Pearce immediately stopped the game, and the flanker was later driven away on a motorised stretcher.
For the bad tackle Beka Saghinadze was yellow-carded and Rhys Webb, on for Hardy, took over the captaincy.
Webb scored at the end to seal it – the best bit being it meant the flames came on to warm everyone up.
For the four debutants it was a day to remember for the rest of their lives, but everyone else would hard-pressed to recall any of it come full-time.
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