Marika Koroibete scored a magnificent solo try as Australia beat battling Georgia 27-8 on a miserable Friday at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in their final Pool D match.
Another much-changed Wallabies side – already assured of a quarter-final spot – lacked fluency in the wind and driving rain but sealed a bonus-point victory that put them top above Wales.
Nic White claimed the only try of the first half and Koroibete helped himself to a brilliant individual score in the second before Jack Dempsey and Will Genia dotted down late on, while the other Australia points came from the boot of Matt Toomua.
Alexander Todua’s try 10 minutes from time gave Georgia hope, but they were unable to pull off a first win over tier one opposition under Milton Haig in the coach’s final game in charge.
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Kurtley Beale was replaced by Dane Haylett-Petty only 13 minutes in after taking a blow to the head in a tackle and Georgia defended magnificently as Australia went through the phases scenting an opening try.
White found a way through when he dropped a shoulder and touched down from the base of a ruck after 23 minutes, with Toomua adding the extras, but Soso Matiashvili got Georgia on the board from the tee.
The Wallabies lost number eight Isi Naisarani to the sin bin for catching Giorgi Nemsadze with a swinging arm before Toomua’s penalty gave them a 10-3 lead at the break.
There was a lengthy delay while Georgia scrum-half Gela Aprasidze was treated before being carted off with what appeared to be a neck injury after a scrappy start to the second half.
Koroibete produced the moment of magic that the game had been lacking, going solo with nimble footwork after picking a loose ball to race away for a stunning effort on the hour mark.
Georgia had a try out of the blue when Todua sped away after a break from Jaba Bregvadze, but Matiashvili pulled the conversion attempt wide and Dempsey claimed his first Test try when the underdogs failed to stop a driving maul following a line-out.
Genia added further gloss when he burst from midfield to take a pass from Taniela Tupou and cross for a fourth try, Toomua failing to convert for a second time with the rain still lashing down.
Cheika facing selection dilemma
Australia head coach Michael Cheika’s policy of chopping and changing has raised a few eyebrows and it will be interesting to see the line-up he goes with next weekend.
Toomua stepped in with a solid display at fly-half, while Genia was lively after coming off the bench as Australia finished strongly after a somewhat disjointed performance – albeit with conditions making handling tough.
Georgia bow out with heads held high
There was no shock for Georgia, but it was certainly not down to a lack of hunger and commitment.
They made 128 tackles in the first half and 201 in total, putting bodies on the line to stay in touch before Australia ran out comfortable winners.
Key Opta Facts
– Georgia made 201 tackles against Australia, the joint second-highest tally in a Rugby World Cup match, only behind France’s total of 205 against New Zealand in 2007 (also level with Georgia’s 201 v Tonga in 2015).
– Beka Gorgadze won five turnovers against Australia, the most by a Georgia player in a Rugby World Cup match; in fact, only once before has any player won more in a match in the tournament’s history (Fiji’s Koli Rakoroi, six versus New Zealand in 1987).
– Rob Simmons won his 100th cap for Australia, the 11th player to reach this milestone for the Wallabies.
– Georgia crossed for at least one try in each of their four pool stage matches at this year’s World Cup, the first time they’ve managed that in the tournament.
Australia gear up for a last-eight showdown which will most likely be against old foes England or alternatively versus France if Wales surprisingly slip up when they come up against Uruguay.
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