Farrell's lifeless Ireland worryingly poor in Autumn Nations Cup win over Georgia

The home side only managed to score three points in a dire second-half showing.

Ireland 23

Georgia 10

GEORGIA’S SEARCH FOR a first-ever win against Ireland continues but this fixture had a bang of the sides’ meeting at the 2007 World Cup off it.

On that occasion, Ireland limped home on a 14-10 scoreline in what was a doomed campaign. This 23-10 victory was every bit as lifeless, sloppy, and worrying for Irish supporters.

Fresh off a defeat in Twickenham, Andy Farrell had hoped this fixture against Georgia, ranked 12th in the world, would allow his side to pick up some momentum and confidence again but instead it may well have done exactly the opposite. 

jacob-stockdale-with-demur-tapladze-and-akaki-tabutsadze Ireland had a frustrating afternoon in Dublin. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ireland’s victory does mean they advance into what is essentially the Autumn Nations Cup’s third-place play-off against Scotland next weekend, but Gregor Townsend’s men will be licking their lips at the prospect of coming to Dublin – where they really should have won earlier this year in the Six Nations.

As with last time out against England, Farrell’s side had real breakdown problems against the Georgians, giving up a string of second-half turnovers, while Mike Catt’s attack failed to spark after a few promising signs in the opening 40 minutes.

On a dry, crisp Dublin afternoon, there weren’t any excuses in the conditions. Scoring only three points in the second half was damning.

Ireland had led 20-7 at half time and could have been further ahead but for three possible tries being chalked off, but they were simply dire in the second half as they made a string of errors to allow the Georgians to grow in belief.

The sight of Ireland kicking three points off the tee with the visitors genuinely back in the contest in the third quarter will linger. 

Farrell’s experiment of shifting Connacht tighthead Finlay Bealham across for his first Test start at loosehead prop was a disaster as referee Mathieu Raynal pinged him several times in the scrum.  

Shane Daly made his Ireland debut off the bench with just over 15 minutes remaining but this must have felt a whole lot different to what he would have imagined Test rugby being like.

As for Georgia, they deserve credit for being so competitive despite poor preparation for the tournament. Having made life difficult for Wales, this was another good outing.

billy-burns-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-hugo-keenan Billy Burns scored Ireland's first try. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Farrell’s men had frustrations early on as their maul was repelled from 10 metres out, Stuart McCloskey lost the ball forward in contact, and then they conceded a scrum penalty to let the Georgians out of their own 22.

There was a missed chance soon after when Tadhg Beirne earned a clean breakdown turnover deep in the Georgia half but CJ Stander failed to pass the ball to an overlap wide on the left, Jacob Stockdale losing the ball on the next phase as he attempted a grubber kick.

But the first Irish score arrived in the 10th minute as man of the match Iain Henderson’s carry gave them momentum and Keith Earls almost got over in the left corner. With penalty advantage playing, outside centre Chris Farrell played a lovely pass out the back for out-half Burns to loop onto and dart over to the right of the posts, converting himself for 7-0.

Burns tacked on another three points off the tee three minutes later but Georgia responded with a stunning score by outside centre Giorgi Kveseladze as he bursts onto fullback Soso Matiashvili’s clever inside pass to break in between Beirne and Stander.

Kveseladze accelerated beyond Andrew Porter, dummied a pass to force Stockdale to sit off him, stepped past Burns, then finished through the despairing challenge of McCloskey and Stockdale for a superb try converted by out-half Tedo Abzhandadze.

Burns extended Ireland’s lead out to six points with 23 minutes gone with a second penalty shot and with Hugo Keenan impressive in the air under Conor Murray’s box-kicking and the Irish lineout applying pressure, Farrell’s side were in the ascendency.

hugo-keenan-scores-a-try Hugo Keenan crosses for Ireland's second try in Dublin. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Their second try came in the 34th minute after an extended passage of pressure inside the visitors’ 22 – which included a possible Rob Herring maul try being ruled out – and concluded with Burns and Stockdale flashing the ball wide to the right for Keenan to cross, the out-half converting again for 20-7.

Ireland thought they had another just before the break as a sweeping sequence saw Beirne and Stander surging down the right and into the Georgia half before slick passing from the 10-15 connection of Burns and Stockdale saw the ball shifted immediately wide left for McCloskey to surge through the last tackle and score from 45 metres out.

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However, referee Mathieu Raynal ruled it out as he adjudged Stockdale’s excellent long skip pass to have been forward.

There was more frustration in the dying seconds as Raynal felt Ireland captain Ryan had been held up over the tryline even when the ball looked playable.

Farrell’s team had a poor start to the second half as Finlay Bealham – starting at loosehead for the first time in his Test career, rather than in his usual tighthead spot – was penalised at scrum time. Scrum-half Murray got Ireland out of trouble with a choke tackle turnover close to their tryline.

stuart-mccloskey-scores-a-try-that-was-later-disallowed-due-to-a-forward-pass Stuart McCloskey had a possible try ruled out just before half-time. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Out-half Abzhandadze soon had a shot at goal after back rows Tornike Jalagonia and Beka Gorgadze combined for a breakdown turnover penalty and the former Terenure College RFC man duly slotted it for a 20-10 scoreline. 

Georgia suddenly sensed a chance and were boosted by another big scrum penalty inside their own 22 with 25 minutes left – Bealham being replaced immediately by Cian Healy after that decision.

Replacement out-half Ross Byrne extended Ireland’s lead to 23-10 just before the game entered the final quarter, Farrell’s players clearly feeling that they couldn’t turn their noses up at the points on offer.

Ireland’s next visit into Georgia territory ended in shambolic fashion as Will Connors chase Byrne’s over-hit chip kick from an offside position, allowing the Georgians to exit from a cheap penalty.   

There was a lengthy pause soon after as Georgia number eight Gorgadze was eventually carted off with a nasty knee injury, his screams having rung out around the empty Aviva Stadium after he collapsed to he ground without being tackled.

When play resumed with an Ireland lineout attack just outside the Georgian 22, a loose pass from Connors saw Merab Sharikadze pounce for a turnover penalty as the Irish lethargy continued.

will-connors-is-tackled-by-beka-gorgadze Georgia grew into the game as Ireland struggled in the third quarter. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

That was to be it for the Irish challenge as Georgia continued to turn them over in their 22, the game ending in thoroughly dispiriting fashion with another penalty concession just five metres out.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Billy Burns, Hugo Keenan

Conversions: Billy Burns [2 from 2]

Penalties: Billy Burns [2 from 2], Ross Byrne

Georgia scorers:

Tries: Giorgi Kveseladze

Conversions: Tedo Abzhandadze [1 from 1]

Penalties: Tedo Abzhandadze [1 from 1]

IRELAND: Jacob Stockdale; Hugo Keenan, Chris Farrell, Stuart McCloskey, Keith Earls (Shane Daly ’63); Billy Burns (Ross Byrne ’45), Conor Murray (Kieran Marmion ’57); Finlay Bealham (Cian Healy ’57), Rob Herring, Andrew Porter (John Ryan ‘HT); Iain Henderson, James Ryan (captain) (Quinn Roux ’62); Tadhg Beirne (Peter O’Mahony ’62), Will Connors (Dave Heffernan ’67), CJ Stander.

GEORGIA: Soso Matiashvili; Akaki Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze (captain) (David Niniashvili ’67), Tamaz Mchedlidze (Demur Tapladze ’65); Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze (Mikheil Alania ’74); Mikheil Nariashvili (Lexo Kaulashvili ’50), Shalva Mamukashvili (Blood bin – Giorgi Chkoidze ’10 to ’20, permanent ’65), Beka Gigashvili (Giorgi Melikidze ’70); Nodar Cheishvili (Giorgi Javakhia ’62), Lasha Jaiani; Beka Saginadze, Tornike Jalagonia, Beka Gorgadze (Mikheil Gachechiladze ’63)

Referee: Mathieu Raynal [FFR]. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from the Aviva Stadium

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