Ireland 23-10 Georgia: Irish secure second place in Autumn Nations Cup Group A

By Michael MorrowBBC Sport NI
Billy Burns
Billy Burns' try came nine minutes into his first international start
Autumn Nations Cup: Group A - Ireland v Georgia
Ireland (20) 23
Tries: Burns, Keenan Pens: Burns 2, Byrne Cons: Burns 2
Georgia (7) 10
Try: Kveseladze Pen: Abzhandadze Con: Abzhandadze

Ireland made heavy weather of beating a tenacious Georgia but prevailed with a 23-10 win to secure second place in Autumn Nations Cup Group A.

All but three of Ireland's points came in the first half with tries from Billy Burns and Hugo Keenan giving the hosts a commanding lead at the break.

Georgia scored one of the tries of the tournament through centre Giorgi Kveseladze's stunning first-half score.

The try was just reward for a powerful and unrelenting performance.

The visitors' display was an impressive response to failing to register a score in both their games with England and Wales.

Georgia will conclude their campaign against Fiji next week while Ireland meet Scotland in the third-place play-off which will give Andy Farrell's side the chance to end 2020 on a better note after Sunday's disjointed display in a game they were expected to win with ease.

Burns impresses on first start

While underwhelming, Ireland's display never looked likely to become anything more catastrophic owing to a solid first half in which they opened up a 17-point lead.

On his first start, fly-half Burns gave a good account of himself scoring 15 points before limping off six minutes after the break.

The Ulster man was a confident and assertive presence at 10, looping around Chris Farrell before darting through a gap to score the first try of the game after nine minutes.

A penalty shortly after put Ireland in the commanding position they would have expected to be in, only for Kveseladze to bring it back to a one-score game with his sensational try.

Kveseladze try
Kveseladze's try was Georgia's first in the Autumn Nations Cup

The centre collected Soso Matiashvili's inside pass on the halfway line, sold Jacob Stockdale a dummy before fending off Burns and crossing for the Lelos' first score of the tournament.

It was without question the stand-out moment of the game, although Ireland did play some eye-catching rugby of their own in the first 40 minutes and showed a willingness to throw the ball out to the backs that was not present in last week's defeat by England.

Keenan, the only back to have started all five of Ireland's autumn games this year, grabbed his third international try five minutes before the break, collecting Stockdale's long-pass to cross in the corner.

Ireland thought they had a third on 39 minutes through Stuart McCloskey who strode over after a powerful run, only for the play to be brought back for a forward pass in the build-up.

Georgia deliver desired performance

Georgia came into this tournament not necessarily with a view to winning games, but to show rugby authorities that they have the capacity to improve and perform against tier-one nations when regularly provided the platform to do so.

Their performance in Dublin was without doubt their most complete of the autumn campaign, during which they have shown improvement in each game.

Former Ireland fly-half David Humphreys, now working with Georgia as a high performance consultant, said earlier this week that he wanted his side to prove they could cause problems in attack against Ireland.

This was mission accomplished through Kveseladze's first-half score, but perhaps even more impressive was their power in a pack that went toe-to-toe with Ireland throughout the contest.

Connacht's Finlay Bealham, deployed at loose-head prop despite usually plying his trade on the other side of the front row, endured a difficult afternoon and was hooked after conceding four scrum penalties.

As the second half wore on, the sides traded penalties but neither looked likely to alter the outcome of the game, with Ireland appearing every bit as unlikely to run away with it as Georgia looked to making a shock comeback.

Ireland: Stockdale; Earls, Farrell, McCloskey, Keenan; Burns, Murray; Bealham, Herring, Porter, Henderson, James Ryan (capt), Beirne, Connors, Stander.

Replacements: Heffernan, Healy, John Ryan, Roux, O'Mahony, Marmion, Byrne, Daly.

Georgia: Matiashvili, Tabutsadze, Kveseladze, Sharikadze (capt), Mchedlidze, Abzhandadze, Lobzhanidze; Nariashvili, Mamukashvili, Gigashvili, Cheishvili, Jaiani, Saginadze, Jalagonia, Gorgadze.

Replacements: Chkoidze, Kaulashvili, Melikidze, Javakhia, Gachechiladze, Alania, Tapladze, Niniashvili.

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