Emerging Ireland run in six tries to end Tbilisi Cup in style
Emerging Ireland produced a clinical second half display in front of Joe Schmidt and his coaching team to record a comprehensive 45-12 victory over Georgia.
Their third straight bonus-point win ensured the Irish finished the competition unbeaten and with a perfect record of 15 points from 15.
Wingers Matt Healy and Andrew Conway both crossed for tries and produced performances that will do their selection hopes for Rugby World Cup 2015 no harm at all.
Georgia played some of their best rugby of the tournament in the first half but couldn't sustain it in the second 40 as Emerging Ireland registered 35 points.
The hosts got off to the perfect start in front of a packed Avchala Stadium, number 8 Lasha Lomidze powering his way over after eight minutes of play for a typically Georgian try.
JJ Hanrahan, who will play for Northampton Saints in the English Premiership next season, reduced the deficit to two points with a penalty goal on 18 minutes to make it 5-3.
The Irish took the lead on 29 minutes when they were awarded a penalty try by referee Mathieu Raynal. From the five-metre lineout they set up a driving maul that proved too difficult for the Georgians to handle by legal means. Hanrahan's conversion put the Irish 10-5 ahead and that is how it remained until half-time.
Lively winger Healy scored within five minutes of the re-start picking a great line off Stuart McClosky to run in under the posts. Hanrahan's conversion put daylight between the sides at 17-5.
Four minutes later Eoghan Masterson scored the try of the day. Conway passed to Hanrahan who sprinted clear before passing to Healy. The winger put the ball on the toe and it was re-gathered by John Cooney who was dragged down five metres short of the line. The ball was quickly recycled and Masterson hit the ball at pace to barge his way over for his side’s third try. The conversion made it 24-5.
The home side were then reduced to 14 men but still managed to score their second try. A brilliant driving maul was finished by replacement second row Otar Giorgadze and Beka Tsiklauri's conversion made the score 24-12 to Emerging Ireland.
Cooney came up with the bonus-point score with a scything run after picking up at the base of the scrum. A fourth successful Hanrahan conversion made it 31-12.
Conway continued his impressive try scoring form in the competition with another score before replacement tight-head Finlay Bealham dotted down with his first touch to make the final score 45-12.
Emerging Ireland head coach Allen Clarke was delighted for his side after the match. "We are very satisfied with the win and to win the tournament overall,” he said. “We are a little bit frustrated with some of our play.
"Over the three games we have probably put together three good halves of rugby,” he added. “We were particularly good in the second half tonight, we played with pace and precision and got our basics right. We came here with a group of young talented players and they are delighted to have won the tournament."
Milton Haig, the Georgian head coach was pleased with aspects of his side’s play. "The first half was okay, we played quite well but in the second half their fitness really showed and they scored some good tries,” he said. “We made tackles in the first half that we couldn't make in the second half. Once they got front-foot ball it was very tough for us to defend. Overall the process for this tournament was selection for the final 10/15 percent of the squad for the World Cup training camp and this has certainly done that."
Emerging Italy defy odds to beat Uruguay
Emerging Italy made it two wins from three games with a 23-13 victory over Uruguay in searing heat in the Georgian capital.
The young Italian team surpassed all expectations at the tournament, playing a great brand of rugby and showing real improvement as the tournament progressed.
Uruguay finished the tournament winless and have plenty to ponder as they get ever closer to the Rugby World Cup.
The Uruguayans made a great start to the contest, however. They worked hard for each other in defence early on as the Italians pressed into their 22. Pablo Lemoine's side held out and minutes later they were ahead. Fly-half Alejo Duran received a pass just on the 22 and was in two minds as to what to do. He decided on the drop goal and it just about made its way over the posts. Not a classic drop goal by any means but three points nonetheless.
Carlo Canna, who had a superb match against Georgia on Wednesday, levelled the scores on 12 minutes with a straightforward penalty goal.
Los Teros should have taken the lead but Agustin Ormaechea's penalty ricocheted off the post, and more misfortune was to befall them when Juan Manuel Gaminara was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes and the Europeans gained the ascendancy.
Emerging Italy scored the first try after 27 minutes. With the man advantage, they put together a well set driving maul and hooker Oliviero Fabiani eventually dotted down. Canna's conversion made it 10-3 to Emerging Italy.
After failing with his first attempt, Ormaechea nailed his second with 10 minutes of the first half remaining, this time the ball cannoning in off the post to make it 10-6 to the Italians.
The game opened up towards the end of the first half with both sides playing good counter-attacking rugby. Uruguay were turned over and Sebastian Negri sprinted clear. The ball was eventually passed to winger Gabriele Di Giulio who scored under the posts. Canna's conversion made it 17-6 to Emerging Italy at half-time.
The third quarter of the match was dominated by Uruguay. They had two clear scoring opportunities but a lack of accuracy, composure and last-ditch Italian defence foiled them.
Credit to the South Americans, they never gave up and were eventually rewarded with a try to Carlos Arboleya. The tight-head prop picked up the ball at the ruck to race away and score under the posts. Ormaechea's conversion reduced the arrears to 17-13.
Carlo Canna's kicking game took the game away from Uruguay in the closing stages. He kicked his second penalty of the match with 10 minutes remaining and followed it up with a brilliantly executed drop goal to make it 23-13 and put his side 10 points clear. That is how it remained to leave Emerging Italy manager, Andrea Duodo, and his players understandably jubilant at the final whistle.
""At the start of the tournament I couldn't imagine that we could win two games ... We have got better and better as the tournament has progressed. "
"At the start of the tournament I couldn't imagine that we could win two games,” Duodo said. “We have got better and better as the tournament has progressed. We worked hard today in difficult conditions. The heat took its toll in the second half and we lacked energy. Overall the management are very happy and the players should be too."
Opposite number Pablo Lemoine was left to rue missed chances. "We created scoring opportunities today but we were inpatient at important times. Our scrum was also under pressure and we were turned over the ball as well which didn't help us,” he said. “Overall the tournament has been great in preparing certain players for the World Cup and will help me make my decisions when it comes to selection."
1. Emerging Ireland 15
2. Emerging Italy 8
3. Georgia 4
4. Uruguay 0
Emerging Italy 0-25 Emerging Ireland
Georgia 19-10 Uruguay
Uruguay 7-33 Emerging Ireland
Georgia 10-26 Emerging Italy
Round Three -
Uruguay 13-23 Emerging Italy
Georgia 45-12 Emerging Ireland
Photo credit: Gogita Bukhaidze