England claimed a 41-10 win over Georgia, but it was not as convincing as the scoreline suggests.
Martin Johnson will be concerned after England’s start to this World Cup campaign. It took a late try from scrumhalf Ben Youngs to snatch a win against Argentina in their tournament opener. They achieved the goal of a bonus-point win in their next fixture against Georgia, but the manner of their total performance will be worrying.
England’s overall display against the rapidly improving European minnows was substandard – a contrast of the 84-6 drubbing achieved the last time these two teams met in 2003. In the first half, Georgia had an 80% territorial advantage while England were far too errant on defence. England performed better in the second half, but it took a while for them to hit their straps. If it wasn’t for the poor goal kicking from flyhalf Merab Kvirikashvili (who missed five from seven, including three in front of the posts) and Georgia’s poor finishing, the scoreline would’ve been far more respectable and a more accurate summary.
Three of Kvirikashvili’s misses came in the first stanza, which could’ve secured an early lead and a huge psychological boost. But instead, Georgia found themselves 14-0 behind after inside centre Shontayne Hape grabbed a double in the first quarter – both converted by pivot Toby Flood.
After Flood and Kvirikashvili traded penalties, the rest of the half belonged to Georgia. They spent majority of that period in England’s red zone, and were only restricted by their own lack of composure on attack and the ill-discipline of their opponents. Referee Jonathan Kaplan eventually sin binned hooker Dylan Hartley for a professional foul, and No 8 Dimitri Basilaia capitalised from the following scrum for the half-time score to read 17-10.
Georgia continued their brave display in the second half, but England’s superior individual quality was enough to see off their fight. Tries from Delon Armitage, Manu Tuilagi and Chris Ashton (2) sealed victory, but Johnson will know a similar performance against a stronger team could’ve very well ended in defeat.
By Gareth Duncan