DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland beat a much-improved Georgia by a patchy 23-10 and completed the group stage of the Autumn Nations Cup at Lansdowne Road on Sunday.
Ireland finished second to England in their group and will play Scotland, the runner-up in the other group, for third place next weekend.
England hosts the inaugural final against France at Twickenham, Wales and Italy meet for fifth, and Georgia and Fiji, which has yet to play because of a coronavirus outbreak in its camp, play for seventh.
An experimental Ireland deserved to lead Georgia 20-7 after the first half, the highlight of which was Georgia’s first points in the tournament, a brilliant try by center Giorgi Kveseladze.
The second half, however, was a stop-start stalemate as the physical Georgians grew in confidence but were prone to errors, and Ireland’s effort became more disjointed and contained.
“In the second half, I just thought we didn’t have any courage of our own conviction,” coach Andy Farrell said.
“Georgia thoroughly deserved to earn the right to slow our game down by being total menaces at the breakdown. But that’s not good enough from us.”
Ireland scored both of its tries in the first half, had another disallowed, and had try attempts held up on the line at the end of each half.
Flyhalf Billy Burns, an accomplished first start cut short after 45 minutes by a groin injury, snatched Chris Farrell’s sweet back pass and sliced over beside the posts, and right wing Hugo Keenan took fullback Jacob Stockdale’s miss-pass to score untouched.
But the best try was Georgia’s and worth waiting for after nearly three hours of tournament play without a score.
Kveseladze burst through a gap on halfway with an inside pass from Soso Matiashvili, slipped one defender, dummied Stockdale, twisted up Burns and slid in by the left post with Stuart McCloskey on his back.
“I am proud for my team. The boys scored an excellent try,” Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili said.
At the end of the half, a 50-meter try by McCloskey in his first test in two years was rubbed out because of a forward pass, and captain James Ryan was held up by Kveseladze.
After halftime, Burns, who contributed 15 points, was missed. Each side added only a penalty kick and emptied the benches; Ireland gave a debut to back Shane Daly, and Georgia debuted 18-year-old fullback David Niniashvili and 20-year-old scrumhalf Mikheil Alania.
At the end, Ireland No. 8 CJ Stander charged twice at the tryline and was denied; being held up by Alania and flanker Tornike Jalagonia, then repelled by Kveseladze, who shoved him back.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports