Scotland v Georgia: Five takeaways from Rugby World Cup warm-up clash as hosts made to graft for win

Scotland's Duhan van der Merwe is tackled by Georgia's Mikheil Gachechiladze during the Summer Nations Series match at the Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium Credit: Alamy
Scotland's Duhan van der Merwe is tackled by Georgia's Mikheil Gachechiladze during the Summer Nations Series match at the Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium Credit: Alamy

Following Scotland’s 33-6 victory over Georgia in their final Rugby World Cup warm-up match, here are our takeaways from the clash at Murrayfield.

Scotland made to grind it out

In many ways, Georgia provided Scotland with the ideal preparation for their Rugby World Cup opener against the world-champion Springboks.

The Lelos are renowned for their world-class scrummaging pack, who are gnarly around the park and have an astute kicking game – and although the Europeans aren’t quite at the same level as their African counterparts, they are no pushover.

Levan Maisashvili’s side were phenomenal in the first period, pinning Scotland in their own half and defended superbly to keep the Scots scoreless for 40 minutes.

Georgia’s brilliant centres Merab Sharikadze and Demur Tapladze were paramount to that, making excellent defensive reads to shut down the likes of Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones. It was no surprise that when Scotland eventually found a way over the line, it was through a piece of genius from Finn Russell to take the pair out of the equation entirely.

Maisashvili’s back-rowers were also outstanding defensively, with Tonrike Jalagonia, Mikheil Gachechiladze and Luka Ivanishvili all happy to chop down every ball carrier at the knees and lower with extreme accuracy and efficiency.

The Georgians competed sublimely at the breakdown, too, particularly on the kick chase, nullifying the attacking and counterattacking prowess of Duhan van der Mwere and Kyle Steyn.

However, they were unable to sustain that pressure and intensity in the second half, as Scotland eventually found gaps in the defence regularly after a more direct approach.

Half-time tweaks

Steyn’s fumble over the line was the closest Gregor Townsend’s side came to scoring in the first 40 minutes, but it did give the Scots the blueprint of how they should play in the second half.

The shift in tactics was evident from the first whistle in the second period as Ben White and Russell used the forwards, who barely carried in the first half, to punch holes and draw in defenders. The Scots re-learnt the old lesson that you need to earn the right to go wide, and when they did, it paid dividends.

Far too often in the first 40, the hosts attempted to score in one fluid attack with numerous offloads, attempting to shift the point of contact. However, that did not work as Georgia just continued to chop players down and bent but didn’t break.

In the second, the likes of Sam Skinner, Jack Dempsey and Jamie Ritchie thundered into the Georgian defence and opened up the gaps for Van der Merwe, Steyn, Jones and Chris Harris.

The lineout also proved to be a rich source of tries, with the maul gaining metres in the second half and giving Russell and co. more time and space. Scotland’s less frantic approach eventually broke down the Georgian defence wall.

Scrum passes litmus Test

As already mentioned, the Georgian scrum is usually a powerful weapon, but today, the Scotland front-row not only nullified but turned it into a weakness.

WP Nel and Jamie Bhatti set the standard as they got the better of Mikheil Nariashvili and Beka Gigashvilli, with Rory Sutherland and Javan Sebastian following suit later on.

Simply getting parity with the Georgians would have given Scotland confidence for their clash with the Boks on September 10, but dominating in the fashion they did, they will now be confident.

They were technically accurate against the much more fancied Lelos set of eight and managed to eke out penalties, and clearly came out of the exchange on top.

It is a huge confidence boost for the side who were effectively playing without arguably their best two props, Pierre Schoeman and Zander Fagerson.

Scotland stars seal victory

When your backs are against the wall, you want your star players to rise to the occasion, and Townsend got precisely that.

Russell was the catalyst for the comeback, kickstarting it with a delightful cross-kick with the outside of his boot and controlling the attack for the second.

Van der Merwe was the try scorer on that occasion and the elusive winger was key to setting up the score for Rory Darge, making a wonderful break before the flanker dotted down.

Back-rower Dempsey was brutally effective on both sides of the ball and quite easily could have picked up the Man of the Match award. He was the sledgehammer that knocked the most holes in the Georgian defensive wall and was duly rewarded with a try.

In the second-row, the performance of Skinner cannot be understated, and neither can that of his lock partner, Grant Gilchrist. They were accurate in the lineout, which paved the way for the victory.

Finally, the all-round brilliance of Ritchie was on full display. He was a titan over the ball and made an excellent cover tackle on Vasil Lobzahanidze at a crucial point in the match. He, too, was outstanding at the lineout and furious with the ball in hand. If Scotland are to be successful at the World Cup, Ritchie will be crucial to their cause not only as a leader and great communicator with the officials but also through his actions.

Georgia primed to shake up Pool C

Wins over Italy and Wales last year cemented Georgia’s status as dark horses for Pool C at the World Cup, and today’s performance reinforced their claim.

While their loss came off the back of Fiji’s victory over England, there are clear signs in the Lelos style of play and tactics that could prove troublesome for the likes of Australia and Wales.

Their long-kicking strategy is paired with excellent chasing wingers, and with the box-office talent of Davit Niniashvili rounding out the back three, they are a real threat on the counterattack.

They will need to get their scrum back up to scratch, but their maul defence – an area of the game many Tier One sides struggle in – was resolute.

While they were a perfect preparation Test for Scotland, the same is true for Georgia, who will tackle an attacking side in the form of the Wallabies in their opening game.

They will be pleased that they never dropped off their intensity despite this being their first clash against Tier One opposition since November last year.

Their breakdown brutality is another part of their game that will serve them well in France.

READ MORE: Scotland find form in second half to seal come-from-behind win over Georgia

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