Georgia earn hard-fought win

The hosts got off to a winning start in their opening match against fellow Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifiers Uruguay in front of a packed Avchala Stadium. 

Both sides crossed for a try each, but it was the goal kicking of Beka Tsiklauri and Lasha Malaguradze that saw Milton Haig's side home. 

Georgia opened the scoring after six minutes with their big lock forward Konstantine Mikautadze bundling his way over the try line after some neat handling in the build-up. Full-back Tsiklauri added the conversion to make it 7-0. 

Four minutes later Tsiklauri extended his side's lead to 10-0 with a long range penalty. Uruguay had their first points of the match through the boot of scrum-half Agustin Ormaechea on 15 minutes, after missing with his initial attempt from halfway. 

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The South Americans looked dangerous with the ball in the wide channels and looked to counter from turnover ball. They were rewarded with their first try on the half hour mark as referee Marius Mitrea awarded a penalty try. Winger Santiago Gibernau broke clear of the Georgian defence before chipping the ball into the in goal area. Gibernau was tackled off the ball leaving referee Mitrea no choice but to award the penalty try. Ormaechea converted to make it 10-10. 

Three minutes before the break Tsiklauri kicked his second penalty to make it 13-10 and that is how it remained until half-time. 

The second half was a similarly even affair. The Georgians had opportunities to score but a lack of composure and accuracy at crucial times cost them. 

Tsiklauri kicked the first points of the second half after 65 minutes when Uruguay were penalised for not releasing the tackled player. The powerful Georgian scrum won a penalty five minutes later and allowed Tsiklauri another shot at goal which drifted narrowly wide. 

Uruguay had their best try scoring opportunity of the second half with 10 minutes of the match remaining, however, with a two-on-one, the final pass went to ground instead of hand when a certain try would have been scored.

Malaguradze had the final word of the match with a penalty one minute from time to ensure the Lelos prevailed 19-10. 

"We are pleased to get the win, but it was a rusty performance; lots of mistakes, discipline was an issue, we turned over the ball too much and we couldn't get any flow into the match," said Georgia coach Haig. "When we attacked and used the ball we created opportunities for ourselves but coughed the ball up. We got frustrated and it stunted our momentum. Credit to Uruguay, they are a good side and they played well tonight. We will take the win and start preparing for Wednesday."

His counterpart, Pablo Lemoine was pleased with the heart his side showed but rued a missed opportunity. "If we score that try we have the game in our hands at 17-16 with 10 minutes to go. It wasn't to be," he said. "The players played a great game and as the coach I am happy with their display. We defended well, especially our cover defence. However, we made too many mistakes so we need to improve on that for Wednesday."

The second round of the Tbilisi Cup takes place on Wednesday with Uruguay against Emerging Ireland and Georgia against Emerging Italy. 

Irish grab bonus point try at the death

Emerging Ireland's bid to add the Tbilisi Cup title to the Nations Cup they won last year began in encouraging fashion with a bonus-point win against Emerging Italy at the Avchala Stadium. 

The young Irish side, looking to impress ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 training squad selection, crossed for three first-half tries and secured the bonus point just before full-time to see off a defiant Italian team 25-0. 

Emerging Ireland were first to register points through the boot of fly-half JJ Hanrahan and quickly followed that up with the first try of the game. The Irish backline worked space out wide allowing outside centre Eoin Griffin the chance to step his way inside the last defender to score the try. 

The Irish pack asserted its dominance on the match and had a period of sustained pressure in the Italian 22, which also saw loose-head prop Federico Zani sent to the sin bin. 

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When the ball was eventually given to the backs, Hanrahan put in a perfect cross field kick for Andrew Conway to gather and dot down in the corner to make it 13-0.

Moments later Emerging Ireland had their third try, and it was made by Hanrahan. The fly-half gathered a chip kick and sprinted away from the Italian defence. He drew the full-back and allowed Stuart McClosky a simple run in. Hanrahan converted to make the score 20-0. 

The Italians enjoyed a good spell of possession towards the end of the half but were unable to put points on the board so Emerging Ireland led 20-0 at half-time. 

After a scoreless third quarter Emerging Italy came close to breaking their duck with a series of pick-and-gos taking them close, however replacement John Cooney forced a crucial turnover to avert the danger.

The second half continued to be a stalemate until Tiernan O'Halloran managed to dive in at the corner to secure Emerging Ireland a crucial bonus point and make the final score 25-0. 

"Scoring the fourth try at the end was important," said Emerging Ireland coach Allen Clarke."I was impressed with the way we played in the first half. In the second half we were scrappy. Having said that we got the crucial bonus point and we didn't concede so we are pretty satisfied with that aspect of our game."

Emerging Italy fielded one senior international in their ranks, five-times capped centre Roberto Quartaroli, as well as four players from recently crowned national league champions Cammi Calvisano.

"It was a very tough match to open the tournament, but I was pleased with the effort the players showed," said Andrea Duodo, Emerging Italy's manager.

"We are a young team and we played against a team with a lot more experience than us. The attitude we showed throughout the match will hold us in good stead for the tournament." 

Photo credit: Gogita Bukhaidze/Georgia Rugby Union