England labour to victory over Georgia
September 18, 2011
England's Shontayne Hape stretches to notch his second try
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England produced a second-half try blitz to silence a determined Georgia and claim a 41-10 victory in their Rugby World Cup clash at the Otago Stadium in Dunedin.
Two tries apiece for Shontayne Hape and Chris Ashton along with further scores for Delon Armitage and Manu Tuilagi kept England on course for the quarter-finals but they were made to work hard for the win by a Georgia side that dominated for large passages but failed to make it pay. Fly-half Toby Flood converted four tries and slotted a penalty to add further gloss to a performance punctuated with errors and indiscipline.
A first half try from No.8 Dimitri Basilaia ensured Georgia only trailed by seven points at half-time but they were left to rue a poor kicking display from fly-half Merab Kvirikashvili who missed five of six penalty attempts. In the end, their impressive industry was not enough to swing the game and they were shut out after the break as England finally found some rhythm to claim a bonus point victory that lifts them to the top of Pool B.
England, who were forced into a late change to their starting line-up after No.8 Nick Easter was withdrawn with a sore back, opened scoring on just three minutes after a Georgian error gift-wrapped an opening. The otherwise impressive Basilaia failed to claim a high ball and England pounced with lock Simon Shaw galloping up to half way where Hape arrived at the right time to exploit a gaping hole in Georgia's defence on his way to the line.
Flood added the simple conversion to cement England's lead but they were immediately forced onto the back foot with man of the match Mamuka Gorgodze leading the charge only for another error to bring an end to what was an enterprising move. It did little to diminish their enthusiasm with England scrum-half Ben Youngs their next victim inside his own 22. The ball was swiftly worked wide to winger Irakli Machkhaneli but he was forced into touch by a try-saving tackle from Ashton.
Breakdown woes continued to hinder England's progress and the latest penalty gave Kvirikashvili the opportunity to get his side on the board but his kick failed to find the target. But they did not have to wait long for their next chance with centre Alexander Todua able to exploit some space outwide before England infringed again. Faced with a difficult kick from the touchline, Kvirikashvili once again failed.
The whistle continued to hammer England with the latest penalty triggering a word from referee Jonathan Kaplan but Georgia repeatedly failed to capitalise with their lineout no match for their well-drilled rivals.
The Georgians were equally committed in defence but did not contain England for long. Flood carved a rare opening on the 22 before feeding Ashton on a trademark line but he was hauled down just short by Gorgodze. Quick ball then found prop Matt Stevens who found his path blocked only for Hape to loom up and muscle his way over for his second score that was also converted by Flood.
The Georgians suffered a blow with the loss of powerhouse prop David Kubriashvili as Kvirikashvili lined up his latest effort but his kick was wayward. However, he finally found some form a couple of minutes later after Tuilagi had been harshly penalised for a tip tackle on centre Tedo Zibzibadze.
Buoyed by the score the Georgians flooded forward again only for handling errors to return to haunt them. But England were not immune to such unforced mistakes with a clumsy obstruction resulting in a disappointing end to a smart break involving some good work from Ashton.
Determined to break the Georgians resistance, Moody pointed to the posts when presented with the next penalty and Flood stepped up to land the kick but Georgia brushed off the setback. Kvirikashvili soon stepped his way into the England 22 where he found plenty of support only for England's Dylan Hartley to cynically kill the ball. As the hooker trudged off to the sin-bin, Georgia re-grouped for a superb scrum that saw Basilaia power his way over for a well-deserved try. Kvirikashvili added the conversion and the contest was very much alive as the sides headed to the tunnel.
England began the second half brightly with a sweeping move deep in to Georgia territory but Armitage was forced into touch at the crucial moment by a great tackle from replacement Givi Berishvili. Further pressure from England drew an offside penalty and having kicked to the corner, England's rock steady lineout provided the platform for their third try. Quick ball stretched the Georgians before Foden straightened to create the opening for Armitage to score.
Hartley returned to the fray to bolster the England pack but they could do little to prevent the next scrum penalty with Stevens guilty of not binding. But Kvirikashvili's nightmare with the boot continued with another kick slipping wide. Luckily for him, England were in a generous mood with Flood the next to feel the wrath of the referee as he tried to hook the ball out of a ruck. But it was an all too familiar story with the kick as the ball struck the woodwork and bounced clear.
Georgia's efforts to raise the tempo brought them some reward in terms of territory but not where it mattered. England were not so wasteful with their next foray into their rivals' 22 resulting in their third try. A good kick for touch from Flood took the game downfield before the England lineout turned screw. The ball was then fed inside to Tuilagi who cut through the defensive line at pace and coasted in under the posts.
Flood added the simple extras and he was soon calling for the kicking tee again. Flanker Tom Wood this time carved a mazy run through the Georgian defence midway inside his own half before offloading to the on-rushing Ashton who produced a trademark swallow dive to celebrate England's bonus point score. Flood converted but that was as good as it got for England until the final minute when Ashton squeezed over in the corner for his second score.
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.