Ireland dodge massive upset
September 15, 2007
Girvan Dempsey scores Ireland' second try in a troubling encounter with Georgia
© Getty Images
Ireland's troubled start to the World Cup was plunged into turmoil tonight as Georgia went close to producing one of rugby's greatest upsets. Tries from Rory Best and Girvan Dempsey, both converted by Ronan O'Gara, spared Ireland's blushes in another humiliating night at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.
Six days after they had struggled to overcome Namibia 32-17 in the same arena, they were caused greater problems by another tier three nation, ranked 17 in the world. Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan had given the team that toiled against the Namibians a chance to redeem themselves by selecting virtually the same side.
Leinster winger Shane Horgan, back after four weeks on the sidelines with a knee problem, was the only new addition with the injured Andrew Trimble making way. But O'Sullivan's loyalty was misplaced as they produced another stale, error-strewn display that suggests they have little hope of beating major Pool D rivals France or Argentina.
The Georgians, showing 11 changes to the team which was dispatched 33-3 by the Pumas, were magnificent and even led until the 53rd minute when Dempsey crossed for the decisive try. Impressive Blois winger Giorgi Shkinin had plundered an interception score four minutes into the second half to nudge the muscular Georgians ahead
Fly-half Merab Kvirikashvili added the conversion to accompany his earlier penalty and possibly the greatest upset in World Cup history looked within their grasp. Ireland were supposed to be the fitter team but Georgia finished strongly, keeping possession and pounding away at the opposition in thrilling grandstand finish.
The stadium was on tenterhooks when Denis Leamy denied Georgia over the line in the 78th minute with referee Wayne Barnes seeking confirmation from the video referee. Georgia had thrown everything at Ireland and spent the dying moments bulldozing forward, but could not produce the winning score. A lack of composure at key moments let them down.
O'Sullivan lamented Ireland's crippling turnover rate against the Namibians and there was little improvement tonight with errors crippling their ambition once again. Georgia won most of the collisions and contested possession at the breakdown with an intensity that was beyond anything Ireland could produce.
And there could be bad news for number eight Leamy who lucky to escape a card for a deliberate stamp on Ilia Maiuradze in a 29th minute the citing officer will examine closely. France are next up for Ireland in six days time and after tonight's display O'Sullivan has little choice but to swing the axe at Monday's team announcement.
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson
Paul Eddison explains how the French sold English clubs down the river and why their domestic game will go from strength to strength
'Nothing can prepare you for the noise of the Millennium Stadium though, you just can't hear anything." Tom Hamilton talks to Cory Allen