Georgia create seismic rugby shock as Matkava’s late penalty stuns Wales
Wayne Pivac straight-batted questions about his future after a humiliating Autumn Nations Series home defeat against Georgia. Less than 10 months before the World Cup, Wales suffered one of their most embarrassing losses, going down 13-12.
Georgia followed Italy earlier this year in claiming a famous Cardiff win, joining Wales’s catalogue of capital horrors that also includes defeats against Romania (1988), Canada (1993) and Samoa (2012).
Wales have won just three of their 11 games this year and Pivac – who succeeded his fellow New Zealander Warren Gatland after the 2019 World Cup – will now inevitably feel the heat going into next weekend’s clash with Australia.
“You have seen a lot of results at the moment that are going against the form-book, and our result is one of those,” Pivac said. “I will be here rolling the sleeves up from tomorrow morning, and we will formulate a plan for the week.
“We are here to do a job, we are focused on building towards the World Cup. This is clearly a setback, and we are not proud of that result.”
Asked if he felt his position would now be under threat, Pivac added: “Again, that is a question for other people, I would guess. We’ve done it [turned things around] before. Unfortunately, we’ve had to do it one time too many from my point of view. It is not a nice place to be.
“Seven days is a long time in rugby, and we will look at it all, including pulling the game to bits. We have to make sure we get the performance we are all happy with and proud of in seven days’ time.”
The former Wales stars Sam Warburton and Jamie Roberts were vocal in their criticism of Wales’s performance after they failed to score a point following the flanker Jac Morgan’s second try in the 24th minute.
Tedo Abzhandadze kicked Georgia into a second-minute lead but Wales pounced in the 20th minute after the lock Adam Beard won lineout ball and the flanker Morgan surged over for a try that Rhys Priestland converted, making it 7-3.
Morgan struck again just three minutes later when he collected a pass from the scrum-half Tomos Williams and Wales thought they had scored again eight minutes before the break when Josh Adams finished impressively after a kick and chase, but Williams’s pass to him was ruled forward.
It was a let-off for Georgia, and they accrued no further damage on the scoreboard as Wales led 12-3 at half time.
Georgia could not capitalise on a yellow card for Alex Cuthbert early in the second half but cut the deficit to two points when Sandro Todua collected a well-placed kick and crossed unopposed in the 59th minute, with Abzhandadze’s conversion making it 12-10.
A long-range penalty from the replacement Luka Matkava two minutes from time then inflicted immeasurable pain on Wales – and the countries will meet again at next year’s World Cup.
Pivac said: “We will review everything, and we will leave no stone unturned in the review process. In the second half we had no continuity, and we were probably second-best in a lot of the collisions and the aerial game.
“Every time you lose a game, it leaves a scar. Next week is no different. We need a big week and a very strong performance.”
The Wales captain, Justin Tipuric, said: “It felt stop-start out there. We would have some momentum and then lose it. You can speak out there as much as you want, but unless the reactions happen – which they didn’t today – then you are going to be on the back foot.
“In rugby, there are ups and downs. This is definitely a down moment. We have to stick together. On our day, we are a quality side, so we have to go out firing next week.
“It is tough to be the first Welsh team to lose to Georgia. Unfortunately, you have those tough days in your career, and now it is all about how we react. We let ourselves down, and it is a disappointed changing room.”
Georgia’s head coach, Levan Maisashvili lavished praise on his players after the greatest day in his country’s rugby history.
“It means everything for us. Not for rugby, the team, but the country,” he said. “It is not easy to win in Cardiff against the Welsh. We are a small country, and we need examples like that.
“It was self-belief, then it was patience and not thinking about mistakes. We can play for each other better than anyone else in rugby. I told the boys before that maybe we are not as skilful, but we have much more fight in us.”