Georgia started their Rugby World Cup campaign with a hard-fought win over Tonga in Gloucester.
Mamuka Gorgodze’s converted try helped Georgia to a 10-3 half-time lead in their Pool C match at Kingsholm.
Giorgi Tkhilaishvili scored in the corner for Georgia’s second try after the break, but Fetu’u Vainikolo’s converted try gave Tonga hope.
Georgia held firm despite playing the last eight minutes with 14 men with Merab Kvirikashvili sin-binned.
The meaning of the result
This result has wider implications with either of these sides hoping to finish at least third in the group in order to seal automatic qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
In a group including New Zealand and Argentina, the game was always going to be a key match for both sides. Tonga’s hopes of progressing through to the knockout rounds for the first time were delivered a blow.
The history boys
On the day Georgia scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze made history by becoming the youngest player in Rugby World Cup history (18 years and 340 days), his team-mates made a nation proud.
Lobzhanidze beat the record previously held by Thretton Palamo (19 years and eight days), and the scrum-half may look baby-faced but he more than held his own. The number nine plays for RC Armazi Tbilisi in Georgia and on today’s evidence looks set for a bright future.
For Georgia, who came agonisingly close to beating Ireland in 2007 before eventually losing 14-10, this was a result of huge significance. While that performance against the Irish announced them on the world stage, this victory sealed their place in history.
Gorgodzilla mauls Tonga
There are few better sights in world rugby than back-row forward Mamuka Gorgodze charging at opposition forwards. The Toulon man, nicknamed Gorgodzilla, was in typically-rampaging form at Kingsholm, scoring his side’s first try and was an inspirational figure as they held firm for victory.
“This is the greatest day of my career, and the greatest days of every Georgian’s career,” he said.
The stats you may have missed
- Gorgodze’s tackle-count – he made 27 – is three times as much as Tonga’s highest, nine made by Nili Latu.
- Tonga have lost their first game at six out of the seven World Cups that they have competed in.
- Only once before had Georgia scored two or more tries in a World Cup fixture – against Namibia in 2007.
- Fetu’u Vainikolo’s try was his 15th for Tonga, making him his country’s leading try scorer in Test rugby history.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 20, 2015
What they said
Tonga captain Nili Latu on his side’s two disallowed tries
“The TMO is there, and I think we could have more challenges – I don’t think we are losing anything.
“Everything was shown in the first game last night (between England and Fiji), and I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
Georgia coach Milton Haig on a great day for Georgian rugby:
“Today was pretty historic for everyone involved in Georgian rugby, and we are very pleased.
“This is the best-prepared side ever to leave Georgia, and today we showed that. Fitness-wise, we were able to sustain our defence over 80 minutes, and that allowed us to come away with the win.”
Reaction to the result
Tonga: Lilo, Veainu, Helu (Piukala 51), Piutau, Vainikolo, Morath, Takulua, Mailau (Taumalolo 51)), Taione (Ngauamo 51), Aulika (Puafis 64), Lokotui, Mafi (T-Pole 59), Kalamafoni, Latu (Ram 71), Ma’afu.
Replacements: Ngauamo,, Fosita.
Georgia: Kvirikashvili, Mchedlidze, Kacharava, Sharikadze, Aptsiauri, Malaguradze, Lobzhanidze (Begadze 78), Nariashvili (Asieshvili 60), Bregvadze (Mamukashvilli 60), Zirakashvili (Chilachava 60), Nemsadze, Mikautadze (Datunashvili 63), Tkhilaishvili (Sutiashvili 65), Kolelishvili, Gorgodze.
Replacements: Asieshvili, Pruidze, Giorgadze.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)