A tale of two halves as early try blitz lifts Wales to Rugby World Cup win over Georgia
Gatland's side left with 'plenty to work on' after they fail to maintain first-half momentum after the break
Wales produced a tale of two halves as an electric start secured a 43-14 bonus-point victory over Georgia in their Rugby World Cup Pool D clash.
But Warren Gatland's side could not maintain the momentum after the break as they wilted in the energy-sapping humidity at the City of Toyota Stadium.
The Welsh were rampant as tries from Jonathan Davies, Justin Tipuric, Josh Adams and Liam Williams effectively ended the contest, handing them a 29-0 advantage at half time with the bonus-point in the bag.
That endeavour and accuracy deserted them in a largely forgettable second 40 minutes, though, as scores from Tomos Williams and George North papered over gaping cracks in the Wales performance.
Head coach Gatland said: "It was a good first half but we were a bit messy in the second and the ball was a bit slippery. Georgia came pretty hard at us in the second half and defended a bit better. To concede those two tries was disappointing.
"We scored three set-piece tries which was pleasing. We missed out on a couple of opportunities as well but we were pleased to get the bonus point."
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones was equally frustrated with how his team finished the match. "We ticked a lot of the boxes in the first half but we are probably a bit disappointed with the second half," he said.
"We let a couple of tries go and did not continue in a similar fashion. We took our foot off the gas so there is plenty to work on."
Georgia are hoping to use this World Cup as an audition for entry into Six Nations, but there were few signs to suggest they are ready for that level apart from tries by props Shalva Mamukashvili and Levan Chilachava.
Both teams are back in action on Sunday as Wales meet Australia in Tokyo in the potential decider for top spot in the pool, while Georgia clash with Uruguay in Kumagaya.
With the furore surrounding the return to Wales of attack coach Rob Howley for an alleged breach of betting rules, it had been a far from ideal build-up to the tournament for Gatland’s side, but they showed no signs of a hangover.
A simple skip-pass allowed Davies to dot down under the posts, before a break from scrum-half Gareth Davies was finished off by Tipuric.
Georgia’s accuracy with their kicking out of hand was poor as they were pinned back in their own half. They were not quick enough in thought or action, and their ponderous possession was easy for their opponents to defend against.
The pressure told as Wales scored a third inside 20 minutes, a fine solo try from Adams after he was put through a big hole in the Georgian defence.
Wales had to wait until the end of the first half to secure their bonus-point try as they shifted the ball quickly out wide for Williams to score.
The pre-game talk had been of the power of the Georgian forwards and the first sign of it came when they produced two excellent driving mauls and crossed the line through Mamukashvili.
Tomos Williams chased down a kick to score Wales’s fifth try before Chilachava burrowed over after more powerful Georgian forward play. North finished the scoring when he stretched to dot down with four minutes remaining.
Georgia coach Milton Haig, in his position for the past eight years, was full of praise for his team's second-half showing, but lamented his team's lack of experience against Tier One opposition.
"Regardless of the result today, if Georgia wants to progress in the quality of their rugby, a competition like the Six Nations is vital," said Haig, like Gatland, a New Zealander.
"You can't play a team like Wales in the World Cup and expect miracles. "Georgia needs to have four matches a year against Tier One nations.
"I'm constantly beating this drum. I've voiced my opinion to World Rugby several times. Are we getting any change? I'm not sure."
Next up for Wales is the crunch clash against Australia. "It is a massive game for us this weekend," Gatland said. "We have a six-day turnaround and the players have worked incredibly hard in the warm-ups and the camps for that.
"We have had some tough games against them over the years but we came out on top in the last game."
Updated: September 23, 2019 06:05 PM