Georgia coming courageously close to victory against the in-form Flying Fijians. One week after missing an 80th-minute conversion against Portugal that would have almost certainly won them the match, The Lelos surprised the 40,000-strong crowd in Bordeaux with a nine-point lead at the break but, hampered by injuries, couldn’t quite get over the line – it would the story of their World Cup, and they now need to qualify for the next edition.
Try of the tournament
Georgia’s opening try in their 18-18 draw against Portugal - Davit Niniashvili (pictured) got the better of three Portuguese defenders before a sublime offload put Aka Tabutsadze in – was a thing of beauty. But their three-try burst in the second half of their 43-19 loss against Wales, including another piece of brilliance from Niniashvili, gave Georgia hope of an upset and a glimpse of what might have been.
Quote that said it all
"I think the last action sums up our identity,” scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze said of a kick-and-chase into the Fiji in-goal area in Georgia’s five-point loss. “It sums up our World Cup. We have lost the match, but we gave everything … but we didn't have any luck."
Man of the moment
Niniashvili, of course. Already a star in France’s Top 14 for Lyon, the 21-year-old provided much of Georgia’s attacking spark at RWC and appears to have the world at his feet. As head coach Levan Maisashvili said: "Davit is a brilliant young player, he's only 21 years old. Sometimes we forget that, thinking he is like a 30-year-old."
One for the future
While no spring chicken at nearly 25, Tornike Jalagona is another Georgian tearing it up in French club rugby, for Biarritz. The number-eight didn’t miss any of his 58 tackles in four games.
16 years ago I refereed @IrishRugby v @GEORGIARUGBY in Bordeaux.— Wayne Barnes (@WayneBarnesRef) September 9, 2023
Nika Amashukeli was 12 years old and watching the game in Tbilisi with his dad.
How good is it that I get to run touch for him today in the @rugbyworldcup? pic.twitter.com/3Oj5fftqOr
From the touchline
While Georgia struggled for consistency on the pitch, the same can't be said of one of their compatriots. Inspired to become a referee after watching Wayne Barnes take charge of Ireland v Georgia in 2007, Nika Amashukeli has become one of the world's top officials and was rewarded with a place on the panel at RWC 2023, with Barnes assisting Amashukeli in the Pool B game between Ireland and Romania.
Even by the standards of a player who was one of the top performers in terms of carries, offloads and defenders beaten, Niniashvili’s 502 metres made across four matches was phenomenal.
In a competitive Pool C, Georgia ultimately failed in their mission to win one game at RWC 2023, a lack of consistency and – as borne out by the stats – an inability to make the most of their visits to the opposition 22, ultimately meaning they will need to qualify for the next edition of the tournament. But coach Maisashvili has built on the foundations laid by former coach Milton Haig and maintained the Lelos' reputation for fierce ruck-and-maul rugby, while developing youthful attacking options in the backline.