Ben Donaldson justified his surprise selection at fullback with two tries and 25 points as Australia earned its first win this year 35-15 against Georgia at the Rugby World Cup.
Donaldson also had the kicking duties in his first test start at fullback on only his fourth test appearance and made six of his seven kicks.
The Wallabies’ losing run attracted doubts before a tough Pool C match with the Lelos, but four tries at a sweltering Stade de France would have taken some heat off coach Eddie Jones. He would be unhappy, however, that Georgia scored a try while playing with 14 men.
Georgia put away the boot at halftime and found holes in the Wallabies’ defence in the second half but could score only two tries while bombing at least three more.
The turning point came after nearly an hour when Georgia fullback Davit Niniashvili broke through but ignored three teammates on his inside and took the tackle. His offload went to Australia prop Taniela Tupou, who showed skill with a little lob to Donaldson to run in untouched. Instead of potentially trailing 21-15, Georgia trailed 28-8 and victory was out of reach.
But the Lelos pressed to the end. Akaki Tabutsadze had a try prevented by Mark Nawaqanitawase and final passes were blown until agile prop Beka Gigashvili scored a late converted try following a well-worked lineout.
Australia’s first try came after 97 seconds through centre Jordan Petaia. He took a quick feed from scrumhalf Tate McDermott and bounced off two tackles.
The second in the ninth minute came from right winger Mark Nawaqanitawase, with Donaldson converting from wide and adding a confident penalty.
Georgia’s only first-half score was an early penalty by flyhalf Luka Matkava. Tabutsadze went close to his 11th try of the year, slipping a tackle, kicking ahead and just failing to collect the ball before Donaldson covered swiftly.
Georgia gave Donaldson another easy penalty following scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze’s high tackle on McDermott, who needed treatment, and then went off late in the half after being flattened making a tackle.
He was replaced by Nic White, who was fouled by left winger Miriani Modebadze when trying to make a pass seconds before the break. Modebadze was sin-binned and the Lelos trailed 21-3 at the break.
They drew a cheer from the crowd when they took an attacking lineout instead of a penalty. It paid off, as Vasil Lobzhanidze and Matkava combined to send flanker Luka Ivanishvili scurrying into the left corner two minutes after the restart.
Georgia was slicing apart the Australians, but it couldn’t finish off its chances.
Sexton returns and leads a record-setting day for Ireland at Rugby World Cup
Jonathan Sexton was bent over, clutching his left wrist, and Ireland and its supporters held their breath.
Ireland’s prized asset in their determined bid to win the Rugby World Cup for the first time was playing his first match in six months on Saturday and appeared in pain.
Sexton had turned casually to flop between the posts for a try and braced his fall with his left arm — the same arm that Romania back Jason Tomane, too late to spoil the try, slid in and slammed.
Sexton hung behind the posts, rubbing his wrist. Then the flyhalf converted his try and all was OK, as was Ireland in a record-setting 82-8 win against Romania.
The 82 was Ireland’s highest World Cup score and second highest all time. Ireland also extended its record-long winning streak to 14 tests.
But this Pool B match was all about Sexton.
He’d been sidelined since the Six Nations Grand Slam-clinching win over England in March. A groin injury and suspension kept him off the field but, back in an Ireland jersey, he was the boss the team relies on and follows.
“I’m delighted to be back to get to experience something like this. It’s been a long time out,” Sexton said. “You can train all you want, but until you’re in a proper match it doesn’t test you properly. I’m delighted just to get some minutes under my belt.”
Before kickoff, he was bossing both teams before the anthems to move into the shade on the field, a little respite from the 34-degree heat.
Then as soon as he kicked off at Stade de Bordeaux, he became Ireland’s oldest player ever at 38.
The old man played like he’d never been gone, though he was caught out in the third minute when his grubber kick was snatched by Romania’s busy Hinckley Vaovasa, who split Sexton and Keith Earls and ran in Gabriel Rupanu for a shocking Romania try.
Sexton brushed that off and a beautiful pass launched a try for Jamison Gibson-Park two minutes later, and Ireland was away.
The captain handled his first receiver role superbly and even made three runs and three tackles in the first half.
By the time he was replaced after 66 minutes to a standing ovation from Ireland supporters, he’d racked up two tries and seven of eight goal-kicks for a personal haul of 24 points, his most ever in 114 tests. That tally took him past Ronan O’Gara for most World Cup points by an Irishman, and closed him within nine points of O’Gara’s Ireland points record of 1,083.
Coach Andy Farrell was just happy to have his captain back. “The most important thing for us as a group is he got through 60-odd minutes and played pretty well. Healthy, and ready to go next week.”
Romania was game to the end but the passing and support between the Ireland forwards and backs was in another class.
Ireland notched 12 tries with braces for Sexton, Peter O’Mahony, Bundee Aki, and Tadhg Beirne. They had an admirable ruthlessness.
“We put together some phases that we’re happy with,” O’Mahony said. “We’ll certainly go back and have a look at some of the stuff we left out there — there was plenty of it. But it was a pleasure coming out here today. The fans here, off-the-wall stuff, and 80 points in our first one, we’ll take that.”
The size of the defeat was no surprise to Romania, which has been depleted by injuries and suffered from constant lineup changes this year. The Oaks’ previous two results were record wins for Georgia, 56-6, and Italy, 57-7.
Romania has South Africa next. Ireland has Tonga.
Italy flatters in record opening win over Namibia
Italy made a bonus point-winning start to the Rugby World Cup against a Namibia team that made the Azzurri sweat for every point at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Saturday.
The 52-8 scoreline was Italy’s best ever against Namibia.
But the seven-try victory with perfect goalkicking from Tommaso Allan was given a flattering sheen by three tries in the last nine minutes as Namibia finally flagged.
This was Namibia’s 12th test in four years. This was Italy’s 12th test in 10 months. But first-game nerves, the baking sunshine, and the Namibians’ never-say-die attitude stymied Italy from showing its greater experience for the first hour.
Namibia hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld’s yellow card gave Italy the break it needed to score two tries in the first 15 minutes. But when it was back to 15 on 15, Namibia grew into the game and scored its only try — an impressive team effort — and worried Italy well into the second half.
Another lineout maul set up Italy’s third converted try for 24-8, and the backline finally clicked for exciting wings Ange Capuozzo and Montanna Ioane to combine for a sweeping try from deep inside their own half.
Capuozzo touched the ball only once in the first half, and Ioane six times. Namibia’s line speed and defence frustrated Italy’s backline. Meanwhile, the Italy pack was losing turnovers and not able to impose itself.
It all came right in the end for Italy but the scoreline was more impressive than the display.
“If you’d given me 50 points before the game I would have grabbed them,” Italy coach Kieran Crowley said. “But if you keep it in perspective, we turned over about 22 balls and you can’t afford to do that. But it was pretty hot out there and the boys are pretty gassed.
“We’ll enjoy tonight because we just won a test match at the World Cup.”
Van Jaarsveld was yellow-carded for collapsing a rolling maul in the 10th minute and his absence was costly.
Twenty seconds later, Italy No. 8 Lorenzo Cannone crossed in a rolling maul. At the next lineout, No. 8 Richard Hardwick replaced Van Jaarsveld to make the throw-in and missed his jumper. Italy captain Michele Lamaro took the catch, Namibia’s backline was slow to transition from attack to defence and Italy flyhalf Paolo Garbisi ghosted through to behind the posts.
As soon as Van Jaarsveld returned, Namibia moved into Italy’s half, crashed the ball up and flyhalf Tiaan Swanepoel expertly lobbed to wing Gerswin Mouton to spear into the corner.
Namibia couldn’t repeat the trick but Italy couldn’t find any rhythm either.
But Italy could rely on its lineout maul, from which lock Dino Lamb reached out to score in the new half.
Italy’s best try earned the bonus point. Garbisi and Juan Ignacio Brex gave right-wing Capuozzo space on the left. He played a 1-2 with Ioane and dived into the corner to finally bring the crowd to its feet.
It was a romp from there, as Italy’s superior reserves shone. Tries for replacements Hame Faiva, Manuel Zuliani and Paolo Odogwu were all given extra toppings by Allan, who tallied 17 points.
“We were put under the pump in the mauls and the scrums,” Namibia captain Johan Deysel said. “They have heaps of experience. It’s a great game to learn from. I’m proud of my boys, we fought until the end.”
Namibia has New Zealand next Friday in Pool A. Italy has 11 days to its next match against Uruguay.