Georgia upset Wales 13-12 for the first time in rugby history in Cardiff, only the Lelos’ second win against a tier-one nation.
The visitors trailed 12-3 at halftime but rallied with a converted try while Wales was down a man.
Replacement flyhalf Luka Matkava then kicked a long-range penalty with two minutes left and the Lelos held on for a famous win less than 11 months before the teams meet again at the Rugby World Cup in Nantes, France.
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“The best thing is proving a lot of people wrong,” Lelos captain Merab Sharikadze said.
“It’s a big pleasure. It’s amazing. This is not a team that people think we are.
“World Rugby needs to pay more attention to us.”
Wales made six changes after beating Argentina last weekend, but it soon became apparent in the second half that a new spark was needed and the bench began to be cleared early.
The spark never came. Wales will end the year failing to win consecutive Tests and Australia, another World Cup opponent, coming next weekend.
“We’re very disappointed,” Wales coach Wayne Pivac said.
“We’ve got to pull this game apart, learn very, very quickly, and make sure we get the result against Australia we now need.”
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The Lelos were a serious pest on their only two previous visits to Cardiff, but halftime came as a relief. The forwards were flagging and Wales was running them off their feet.
However, Wales was wasting chances and managed in the first half only two quick tries finished by flanker Jac Morgan.
The first was a perfectly executed lineout move. Morgan ran the short side, dummied two Georgians, and was clean through.
The second was Wales showing great support, key offloads by Dillon Lewis and George North, and Tomos Williams picking an unmarked Morgan on the right wing again.
Wales had the formula: Quick ruck ball, get the ball wide. But closing on halftime, two attacks were squandered when Louis Rees-Zammit and Tomos Williams kicked the ball away needlessly. Pivac still thought they had control.
But Georgia was transformed after the break, especially the scrum. The defense also gave Wales no space, the forwards held the ball longer, their confidence grew and Wales wilted.
“Before the game, I said (to the team) if you believe, you can win. The boys said yes,” Lelos coach Levan Maisashvili said.
“At halftime, I said you can win this game. That result was very important for us, for self-belief, for trust in our system, for trusting each other, coaches and players.”
The turning point was Alex Cuthbert’s yellow card for taking out opposite winger Sandro Todua. Cuthbert’s absence was expertly exploited when Georgia flyhalf Tedo Abzhandadze laid on a perfect crosskick to Todua to catch and stroll over the try line.
Abzhandadze converted to lift Georgia within two of Wales with 20 minutes to go.
Thanks to the forwards’ control, scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze was playing the tempo game Wales wanted and fullback Davit Niniashvili was being a threat.
Abzhandadze missed a straight forward penalty kick for the lead goal Georgia’s scrum took over at the end.
Second best to Wales in the first half, the Georgians monstered Wales’ pack in the second. A tighthead earned another penalty and Abzhandadze’s replacement, Matkava, slotted it from Wales’ 10m line in the 78th.
“We didn’t come out in the second half,” Wales captain Justin Tipuric said.
“It’s not nice to lose first time to them. It is a blow. Especially with Georgia coming up in the World Cup.”
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