Tonga Steps Up In Tbilisi

Hemani Paea Tonga Ikale Tahi Georgia Lelos RugbyAn excellent second half performance saw Tonga touch down three times to pull away from Georgia in a preview of next year’s World Cup Pool C opener. The contrast in styles made for an intriguing contest, with the might of the Georgian forwards controlling much of the first half, and the beginning of the second. Fatigue and a bit of indiscipline crept in as the clock ticked over the hour mark, and some impact subs made their presence felt for the visitors.

Jake White’s influence on the Tongans was immediately apparent. They used a simple but effective game plan, showing patience to work through the phases and impressive discipline not only to stay on task but also in defense, where their temperament has gotten the better of them in the past. There were very few silly penalties given away and they held their shape, looking comfortably the most impressive of the Pacific Island sides in that regard this weekend.

The combination of Tane Takulua and Kurt Morath at the halfbacks worked well, with Takulua’s quick service giving Morath the time to distribute or control field position. Hemani Paea and Siale Piutau were effective at getting over the gainline, and if anything Paea could have been used more, with the blockbusting centre dragging in two and three defenders every time he smashed it up the middle. Had the Tongan support been a little more accurate, the tries that came later in the match might have appeared a bit earlier.

Georgia played their usual kick and chase style, relying on their big men to win the collision and dominate in the scrum. The Lelo defense was strong in the first half, and they won several turnovers with a clear focus on arriving players getting over the ball. Their downfall was taking too many needless penalties at the breakdown where they had been competing so well. They’ll also need to sharpen up their defense, both in alignment and line speed.

Dublin will be a difficult proposition for this group, and it’s hard to see them changing their tactics in a week. If anything they might look to beef up their pack a little more with Lasha Lomidze and Giorgi Nemsadze good bets to start. The Ikale Tahi meanwhile head to Gloucester to face the Americans in what should be an entertaining match and a nice chance for the Kingsholm faithful to watch three of their own in Tongan colours.

Saturday, November 8, 13:00 GMT, Tbilisi

11 mins – M. Kvirikashvili pen 3-0
26 mins – K. Morath pen 3-3
40 mins – M. Kvirikashvili pen 6-3
45 mins – K. Morath pen 6-6
51 mins – M. Kvirikashvili pen 9-6
65 mins – T. Moa try 9-11
66 mins – L. Fosita con 9-13
70 mins – T. Moa try 9-18
78 mins – V. Lilo try 9-23

74 mins – G. Tkhilaishvili yellow (foul play)

M. Kvirikashvili; I. Machkhaneli (capt.) (S. Todua 72), D. Kacharava, M. Sharikadze, T. Mchedlidze; L. Khmaladze (L. Malaguradze 75), G. Begadze (V. Khutsishvili 75); M. Nariashvili (Z. Zhvania 66), S. Mamukashvili (S. Maisuradze 70), D. Kubriashvili (L. Chilachava 66); K. Mikautadze, L. Datunashvili; G. Tkhilaishvili, V. Kolelishvili (L. Lomidze 27-40), G. Chkhaidze (L. Lomidze 66 {G. Nemsadze 70}).

V. Lilo; T. Halaifonua, S. Piutau, H. Paea, F. Vainikolo (O. Katoa 80); K. Morath (L. Fosita 61), T. Takulua (T. Moa 61); T. Mailau (S. Halanukonuka 54), A. Lutui (E. Taione 70), S. Puafisi (P. Fa’anunu 54); L. Lokotui, J. Tu’ineau (L. Fa’aoso 77); S. Kalamafoni, N. Latu (capt.), V. Ma’afu (H. T-Pole 77).

Referee: P. Gaüzère (FFR)
Assistants: A. McMenemy (SRU) & V. Iordachescu (FRR)
TMO: C. Damasco (FIR)

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