Portugal 18 Georgia 18
Portugal finally has some points at a Rugby World Cup.
Still no win, though, for Os Lobos.
They couldn’t have come closer this morning, conceding a game-tying try in the 78th minute and then missing a penalty with the clock in the red to settle for an 18-18 draw with big European rival Georgia in Toulouse.
“We have built a base for the future,” Portugal captain Tomás Appleton said.
A match that looked to have been settled by two blistering tries from Portugal winger Raffaele Storti had a thrilling climax that left both teams unsatisfied.
Trailing 18-13 and having been surprisingly dominated by the Portuguese in the second half, Georgia’s grizzled set of forwards summoned up one last push with two minutes remaining and replacement hooker Tengizi Zamtaradze grounded at the back of a rolling maul to tie the score.
There were barely 40 seconds left as Luka Matkava booted the touchline conversion right of the posts.
Portugal’s players breathed a sigh of relief, and then were handed another chance of victory when Georgia gave away a penalty for obstruction straight from the restart.
With first-choice kicker Samuel Marques having already been replaced, fullback Nuno Guedes stepped up for the last kick of the game and pulled it wide. He looked devastated when the final whistle was blown immediately.
“The last kick, I really thought we could win,” Portugal flyhalf Jerónimo Portela said.
Still, it’s a two-point gain for Portugal in its sixth match in the tournament, having lost all four pool games in 2007 and opened this World Cup with a 28-8 defeat to a second-string Wales.
And there was plenty for Os Lobos to be proud of as they recovered from being 13-0 down after 32 minutes and didn’t concede another point until Zamtaradze’s try.
Georgia’s record of winning at least one match at every Rugby World Cup since 2007 is under threat now, with games against Fiji and Wales to come.
“Rugby isn’t one half,” clearly unhappy Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili said. “We played really hard in the first half but in the second half Portugal dominated everywhere.
“We know their team but we didn’t execute our opportunities when we had a chance to play. We lost a lot of balls today, lost our breakdown. Portugal played very well in the second half.”
With Portugal eventually proving more then a match for Georgia up front, Storti — playing in place of suspended teammate Vincent Pinto — provided the fireworks out wide with tries in the 34th and 57th minutes, both from long range and both similar in the way he burst through and left would-be tacklers flailing in his wake.
His first will be an early contender for try of the tournament for how he came in off the right wing with a sidestep, taking out three covering Georgians in the process, and then found a gap between Gela Aprasidze and Vladimer Chachanidze before sprinting 50 meters to go over in the right corner and make it 13-5.
At age 22 and with 18 tries in 25 tests, Storti could be a star of the future.
This was a first Rugby World Cup meeting between the two best teams in the second-tier of Europe’s rugby countries, below the Six Nations. Portugal hadn’t beaten Georgia in their previous 18 attempts, including losing the final of the Rugby Europe Championship in March, and was outplayed in the first 30 minutes.
Georgia raced into its early lead by dispensing with the team’s usual approach of predominantly using its big forwards, and instead sent the ball out wide. Winger Akaki Tabutsadze took an offload by Davit Niniashvili and crossed down the right wing in the second minute for his 15th try in 34 tests. Abzhandadze converted and added two penalties for the Lelos, who kept squandering try chances.
Then, they fell apart after conceding Storti’s first try and failing to take advantage of Portugal prop Francisco Fernandes’ yellow card in the 37th for a no-arms tackle on hooker Shalva Mamukashvili. A bunker review confirmed there would be no red for Fernandes — who has 23 sin-binnings for club and country across his career — even though there appeared to be a slight clash of heads.
By the hour mark, Georgia had missed 20 tackles and, shamefully for its renowned pack, conceded a penalty at a scrum despite having the put-in.