Scotland U20 defeated by late Georgian strike
Scotland U20 lost their final World Rugby U20 Championship pool match as Georgia struck late to cap-off a second-half comeback in Rosario.
Carl Hogg’s side led 7-0 at the break, with hooker Ewan Ashman grabbing the only score in a turgid opening 40 minutes of action.
Georgia would strike back through stand-off Tedo Abzhandadze’s early second-half penalty, but Ashman grabbed his second soon thereafter to make it 3-12 with less than 30 minutes to play.
However, second-half tries from Abzhandadze – who finished the match with 12 points to his name – and replacement Luka Nioradze flipped the script and the Junior Lelos held a 17-12 with just five minutes to play.
Scotland would work it into striking distance in the final moments, but Georgia held on to record their first win in this year’s Championship.
Speaking following the match, Scotland U20 captain Connor Boyle, said: “We took our foot off the gas. We came out all guns firing and played smart rugby in their half for the opening ten minutes of action.
“Our set-piece and lineout was very good up until the final 20 minutes, but we let that big Georgian pack get into the game and from there they just capitalised to earn the win.
Scotland couldn’t have got off to a better start and soon had the lead with only six minutes on the clock.
The opening score would eventually come through hooker Ewan Ashman, but try arrived following a seriously strong start by the Scottish pack.
Prop Euan McLaren would firstly have his dart at the line chalked off. Although the try was initially given by referee James Doleman, replays showed that Ayr man was just shy of the try line.
Scotland rallied, however, and following an accurate lineout drive, Ashman was the man at the bottom of the pile with the tight-five dominating their opposition.
The opening score would spur the Georgians into action, however, and with dangerous No.8 Ioane Iashagashvili a driving force in attack, Scotland were on the back foot for much of the initial stages.
Georgia would continue to knock on the door, but Scotland’s defence was up for the battle. With impressive lock Ewan Johnson and captain Connor Boyle both proving a menace at the breakdown, The Lelos struggled to maintain continuity in attack.
Although Georgia’s sheer size would prove effective come scrum time, Scotland’s length at the lineout saw the age-grade side dominate in the air. With Ashman and No.8 Tom Marshall sweeping up the scraps, the age-grade side were able to launch a number of expansive counter attacks.
Although The Lelos would dominate possession, clear cut chances were few and far between and it remained 0-7 at the break.
Georgia would continue where they left off and opened the second-half with a well-struck penalty from replacement stand-off, Tedo Abzhandadze. (3-7)
Scotland would extend their lead moments later however, and it was Ashamn once again who proved Scotland’s most potent finisher in the red-zone.
After taking a quick-tap penalty, the ball was eventually recycled to the hooker who had the simple task of burrowing over the line for his side’s second of the afternoon. Thompson missed the resulting conversion. (3-12)
In Abzhandadze, Georgia had a not-so secret weapon. At just 19-years-old, the stand-off already has four national caps and he soon showcased his skill and intelligence to get his side right back in it.
After Georgia broke down the touchline, the ball was eventually whipped back to the stand-off who had the presence of mind to dummy his opposite number before cantering over. With Abzhandadze converting, it was just a two-point game. (10-12)
Both sides would continue to be bogged down in a set-piece slog as the clock hit 70 minutes, but Scotland looked the more dangerous outfit will ball in hand. Carl Hogg’s side would unfortunately have an excellent try disallowed as the referee spotted a forward pass in the build-up.
It was a hugely decisive moment in the match, and the Georgians would soon take advantage of that good fortune.
With Scotland pinned inside their own 22m, a mistimed lineout resulted in the ball finding its way into the hands of replacement, Luka Nioradze.
The prop had the simple task of dotting down and with Abzhandadze nailing the resulting conversion, Georgia held the lead heading into the final five minutes of play. (17-12)
Scotland refused to give in however and almost forced the draw with an exhilarating piece of back play that saw Robbie McCallum and Rory McMichael link-up out wide to bring the age-grade side within metres of the Georgian whitewash.
However, as the ball was eventually spilled in contact, the match was all but over and Scotland were resigned to losing their final World Rugby U20 Championship pool match, which sees the age-grade finish bottom on two points.