CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Georgia upset Wales for the first time in rugby history 13-12 in Cardiff on Saturday, just the Lelos’ second win over a Premier League nation.
The first was at home against Italy as recently as July.
Georgia were 12-3 down at half-time but bounced back with a converted try while Wales lost a man. Substitute flyhalf Luka Matkava then kicked a long-range penalty with two minutes remaining and the Lelos held on to a famous win less than 11 months before the teams met again at the Rugby World Cup in Nantes, France.
Wales made six changes after beating Argentina last weekend, but in the second half it quickly became clear that a new spark was needed and the bench was cleared early. The spark never came and Wales will end the year by not winning back-to-back Tests with Australia coming next weekend.
The Lelos have been a serious nuisance in their only two previous visits to Cardiff but half-time was a relief. The forwards slacked off and Wales knocked them off their feet.
However, Wales missed chances and managed just two quick tries in the first half, which were stopped by flanker Jac Morgan.
The first was a perfectly executed lineout move. Morgan ran the short side, faked two Georgians and went clean.
Second was Wales, who showed great support, key offloads from Dillon Lewis and George North and Tomos Williams again selecting an unmarked Morgan on the right wing.
Wales had the formula: fast jerk ball, get the ball far. But two attacks were wasted just before half-time when Louis Rees-Zammit and Tomos Williams unnecessarily kicked the ball away.
Georgia transformed after the break, especially in the crowd. The defense also gave Wales no room, the strikers held the ball longer, their confidence grew and Wales dwindled.
The turning point was Alex Cuthbert’s yellow card for knocking out opponent Sandro Todua. Cuthbert’s absence was expertly capitalized on as Georgia’s flyhalf Tedo Abzhandadze nailed a perfect crosskick at Todua to catch him and saunter down the tryline.
Abzhandadze came on to win Georgia within two minutes from Wales with 20 minutes to go.
Five minutes later, Abzhandadze missed a direct penalty for the lead.
Georgia’s scrum took over in the end. Second best to Wales in the first half, the Georgians beat the Wales team in the second half. A tighthead earned another penalty and Abzhandadze’s substitute, Matkava, shot it from the Wales 10-yard line in the 78th minute.
The story came moments later.
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