In a thrilling Rugby World Cup clash at Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes, Wales secured the top spot in Pool C by defeating Georgia with a final score of 43-19.
The match kicked off with a strong start for Wales, as prop Tomas Francis and full-back Liam Williams managed to score from close range within the first 25 minutes. However, Georgia’s captain, Merab Sharikadze, powered his way over the try line, reducing the deficit to 17-7 at halftime.
The second half saw winger Louis Rees-Zammit taking the spotlight, as he scored an essential hat-trick for Wales. Rees-Zammit’s remarkable performance included a breathtaking sprint from the halfway line to extend Wales’ lead. Georgia fought back, with replacement prop Vano Karkadze and wing Davit Niniashvili contributing impressive tries, bringing them within five points of Wales.
Yet, it was Rees-Zammit who alleviated Welsh anxieties. He skillfully collected a perfectly placed chip from Williams and dived over in the corner. Shortly after, he completed his hat-trick with another well-timed touchdown. George North added a final try for Wales as the match came to a close.
Tommy Reffell, honored as the Mastercard Player of the Match, admitted to the physical toll the game had taken, saying, “I’m sore after that one. We knew what to expect with Georgia, they had that win against us at the Principality Stadium in the last year, so we knew what they were going to bring with that physicality. We really had to up it today, scrum, maul. We also knew they could play out the back a lot better than what they showed. So they had threats all over the park, and it was up to us to shut them down.”
Wales’ captain, Dewi Lake, emphasized the need for ruthlessness and acknowledged the lapse in energy during the middle 20 minutes of the game. He praised Georgia’s determination, stating, “We spoke about them being a proud nation; they were never going to go away quietly. We picked it up in the final 20 and we scored some nice tries and played some nice rugby. We’ll definitely work on the middle 20 minutes, not having that drop-off in energy, when we’ve got a team on the ropes, to keep them there.”
Wales’ head coach, Warren Gatland, provided an update on Gareth Anscombe’s injury in the warm-up, describing it as a minor groin issue. Dan Biggar, who was on the replacements’ bench, was considered for the match but had his own injury concerns. This allowed young Sam Costelow to step up and play a full 80 minutes, a valuable experience for the promising player.
Georgia’s head coach, Levan Maisashvili, expressed satisfaction with his team’s fighting spirit but expressed disappointment about not achieving their goals in the tournament. He acknowledged the strength of Wales as one of the tournament’s top teams and commended his side for their resilience throughout the competition.