|Wales (10) 13|
|Try: Amos Con: Priestland Pens: Priestland 2|
|Georgia (3) 6|
Wales held on to beat Georgia in an extraordinary finish at a tense Principality Stadium.
Warren Gatland’s experimental team took a 10-0 lead thanks to Hallam Amos’ try but Georgia defended well and were predictably powerful in the forwards.
Soso Matiashvili’s boot had them within four points after 50 minutes.
Rhys Priestland’s penalty calmed nerves but Georgia were frustrated late on by uncontested scrums being called with Wales’ Tomas Francis in the sin-bin.
Just as against France in Paris during the 2017 Six Nations, there was controversy in stoppage time with Wales unable to replace prop Francis after he saw yellow for conceding a penalty in the shadow of the home side’s posts.
With Georgia looking to go for the pushover and a potential draw, referee Mathieu Raynal ruled uncontested scrums and Georgia went for touch.
In the confusion, Georgia had brought their starting tight-head Levan Chilachava back on to the field, but Wales held out to claim an unconvincing victory.
Georgia with point to prove
With 14 changes, Welsh players were hoping to make an impression before next week’s visit of New Zealand and further ahead to the World Cup in 2019.
Georgia, already ranked above Italy in the world, were looking to further their claims for inclusion in the Six Nations.
Playing against Wales for the first time, the visitors did indeed make a good impression against Gatland’s men, who were hanging on for victory at the end.
Wales were determined to move Georgia’s lauded pack around the field and the rapid tempo almost brought immediate success.
Alex Cuthbert went over the line but the wing was stopped from grounding the ball by scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze’s outstanding cover tackle.
It summed up a first-half performance that saw Georgia keep Wales at bay despite probing out wide and Gatland’s side turning down a number of kicks at goal.
Referee Raynal and television match official Leo Colgan were heavily involved, as first Priestland was called back for a questionable knock-on by Kristian Dacey and again when Amos was denied a thrilling touchdown when they judged the ball had gone forward from Nicky Smith’s rip.
The one occasion Wales were able to breach the defence without incurring the wrath of the officials saw Amos finish off a fine move in the left-hand corner, after Priestland had floated a pass over the top of the covering Georgians.
Those interjections punctuated a half that saw Wales fail to turn promising positions into points, and when they knocked on from an attacking maul on half-time, Georgia were the happier side.
Wales pushed all the way
After the break Georgia sharpened their defence and stopped Wales’ wide game, while their scrummage became the weapon many feared it would be.
A string of penalties helped them push Wales back, but they carried little threat behind the scrum and the scoring was limited to Matiashvili and Priestland exchanging penalties.
Wales almost paid for their own positivity, with a kick to make it 16-6 turned down with a dozen minutes left – with the brave decision being proved incorrect when they lost the lineout.
From that position, Georgia mounted a final attack that came close to earning a draw which would have left Gatland’s experiment backfiring.
Man of the Match
Wales head coach Warren Gatland said: “We were as confused as anyone at the end.
“Leon [Dragons prop Brown] had cramped up, his calves were no good. When we took him off it was tactical but we knew he was cramping.
“I can promise you there was nothing from our point of view to manipulate the laws. If Leon had been fit he would have gone back on.”
Georgia head coach Milton Haig said: “We would have got over from that scrum, absolutely. And from what happened I think they (Wales) were pretty confident about that and that’s why they went for uncontested scrums. We would have backed ourselves there.
“There’s perhaps a need to look at how those situations are officiated. We would have liked that scrum at the end of the game, that’s for sure.”
Haig said that they did not intend to seek action over Wales’ claim that they could not field a prop at the end.
Wales: 15-Liam Williams; 14-Alex Cuthbert, 13-Scott Williams, 12-Owen Watkin, 11-Hallam Amos; 10-Rhys Priestland, 9-Rhys Webb; 1-Nicky Smith, 2-Kristian Dacey, 3-Leon Brown, 4-Adam Beard, 5-Cory Hill, 6-Dan Lydiate (c), 7-Sam Cross, 8-Seb Davies
Replacements: 16-Elliot Dee, 17-Wyn Jones, 18-Tomas Francis, 19-Josh Navidi, 20-Taulupe Faletau, 21-Aled Davies, 22-Dan Biggar, 23-Owen Williams
Georgia: 15-Soso Matiashvili; 14-Giorgi Koshadze, 13-Davit Kacharava, 12-Merab Sharikadze (c), 11-Miriani Modebadze; 10-Lasha Khmaladze, 9-Vasil Lobzhanidze; 1-Mikheil Nariashvili, 2-Jaba Bregvadze, 3-Levan Chilachava, 4-Kote Mikautadze, 5-Giorgi Nemsadze, 6-Lasha Lomidze, 7-Vito Kolelsihvili, 8-Beka Bitsadze
Replacements: 16-Shalva Mamukashvili, 17-Kakha Asieshvili, 18-Soso Bekoshvili, 19-Giorgi Chkhaidze, 20-Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 21-Giorgi Begadze, 22-Rezi Jinchvelashvili, 23-Merab Kvirikashvili
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Touch judges: Shuhei Kubo (Japan) & Sean Gallagher (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)