Late penalty gives Georgia a stunning win over Wales

CARDIFF (Reuters) – Substitute flyhalf Luka Matkava, a 21-year-old earning his second cap, became an instant national hero when he landed a 77th-minute penalty to give Georgia a 13-12 win on Saturday about Wales the greatest moment in their rugby history.

After beating Italy for the first time against a Tier 1 country earlier this year, it was a stunning result for Georgia, who will face Wales again at next year’s World Cup.

“Our second win against a Tier One nation this year – we proved a lot of people wrong,” said captain Merab Sharikadze, who also expressed frustration at his team’s lack of chances.

“We want to continue that – we made history today. We’re not the team people think we are. We’ve beaten world-class teams and world rugby needs to pay more attention to us and a lot of people think something needs to change.”

Wales led 12-3 at half-time through two tries from Jac Morgan but the conversion was the last point they scored.

Georgia defended brilliantly, growing in confidence and strength as her big bench added real power and winning it after a try from Alexander Todue with Matkava’s test kick.

It sparked wild celebration scenes among Georgians. “We are so proud. I am proud of the team and of all Georgians in rugby,” said scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze

“We all believed in our victory from the first to the last minute. We made history. We are so proud of ourselves.”

Wales had the best of early exchanges but struggled to put their possession into dangerous situations. Finally, flanker Morgan peeled off an alley with a clean sidestep around the blindside on the first try after 21 minutes.

He got a second three minutes later, and although the crowd sat back for more, it proved the high mark of their day.

Winger Josh Adams, back on the side after breaking a hand, thought he had a third after chasing his own shot down the middle, but it was ticked off for a forward pass to leave Wales 12-3 in at the break leadership went.

The third quarter followed a similar pattern to the first, as Wales enjoyed plenty of possession but appeared unstructured and rarely entered the 22 in the face of an engaged Georgia defence.

They then lost winger Alex Cuthbert after a dangerous aerial battle and Georgia took advantage and built up some pressure before Tedo Abzhandadze stepped into a wide space for Todue to collect and score after an hour.

Abzhandadze added the conversion to his earlier penalty to make it 12-10 but then missed with another shootable penalty as the Georgians enjoyed a long period of dominance.

Wales eventually rose, but a third try for Morgan was ruled out by a break-off and it was the visitors who charged again to earn the all-important scrum penalty.

“We were hoping to put more pace into the game but all credit to Georgia, they did well on set pieces and prevailed,” said Wales captain Justin Tipuric.

“It’s a blow, we can’t hide it, especially with Georgia at the World Cup, but we have to hit back against Australia next week.”

Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Clare Fallon

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