LLANELLI, Wales (AP) — Wales’ longest losing streak in seven years was over after an experimental side accounted for Georgia 18-0 in the Autumn Nations Cup on Saturday.
After losing six tests in a row since February, coach Wayne Pivac made a planned 13 changes to the starting XV and they paid off a week after the main players were thrashed by Ireland 32-9.
While Georgia was nowhere near the same status as Ireland, Wales has a rocky history of fielding weakened sides against tier two opponents in the last decade, with scrapes against Fiji, Japan and, in 2017, Georgia.
But Wales was in no danger as it won comfortably through a solid display in the rain.
“Across the board we took a step in the right direction,” Pivac said.
A try by 19-year-old wing Louis Rees-Zammit, making his first start in his second test, highlighted the first half. Flyhalf Callum Sheedy, also enjoying a first start in his second test, converted and added two penalties, and venerable replacement Rhys Webb added a late try with a final pass from Rees-Zammit.
Georgia was blanked for a second straight Nations Cup match after losing in the wet last weekend to England 40-0. The Lelos go to Dublin next weekend, while Wales welcome England, which overwhelmed Ireland 18-7 earlier.
Wales’ morale is still low, and Pivac’s next selection will be noteworthy as to how big he gambles. His core group was manhandled by Ireland, but on Saturday the set-piece was strong and reliable. The scrum earned five penalties from the Georgians.
The new caps, flanker James Botham — grandson of England cricketing great Ian Botham — scrumhalf Kieran Hardy, center Johnny Williams and backline replacement Ioan Lloyd, did all right in trying conditions.
Georgia, struggling in the set-pieces, had to be warned for persistent fouls as the Welsh hunted for points.
From a scrum, a Sheedy miss-pass put Rees-Zammit over in the left corner. Sheedy’s extras made it 10-0.
A second penalty kick in the new half was followed by a Rees-Zammit counterattack and offload to stand-in captain Justin Tipuric, who was hit in the face by Beka Saginadze’s swinging forearm. Saginadze was only sin-binned and Wales couldn’t take advantage.
The second try came as a surprise in a looser second half. Williams cleaned up a dropped pass, straightened the attack, and Sheedy and Reez-Zammit set up Webb to score.
“We had to win tonight and we’re happy,” prop Wyn Jones said.
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