Monday, September 26, 2011

Georgia vs USA, 2010

With the third game of the USA Eagles at Rugby World Cup 2011 only two days away, Argentina 2023 is taking the opportunity to look back at a classic encounter from 2010 in which the United States of America played against Georgia in Tblissi for the first time in history. It was mission accompished for the USA Eagles. Or so it should have been. After 80 minutes up on the clock the USA were leading 17-12. They had done what Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Germany, Portugal, Romania, Russia and Spain and Ukraine have all failed to do in recent years- conquer Tblissi. Georgia have an impressive home record in that they have not been defeated at home for over seven years, the last home loss being in 2004 against Portugal. So, with the USA Eagles in town there was a mission both both teams greater than just winning the match - there was a streak on the line.

The crowd was very loud and indeed hostile. It was a new experience for the USA Eagles who are used to playing in smaller venues and in front of far smaller crowds. Georgians showed up in large numbers to show the USA that the Lelos mean business. The Boris Paichadze National Stadium was treated to two of the worlds fastest growing teams and surely this will need to be a regular fixture. Georgia found themselves leading 6-0 early in the first half thanks to two penalties to flyhalf Lasha Malaguradze. The USA were under pressure and secondrower, Hayden Smith was yellow carded giving the hosts a massive advantage. It would be the USA who would score the games first try, however, as they fought back and were the better side in the first half with centre Paul Emerick scoring an unconverted try and a huge drop goal to flyhalf Nese Malifa to lead 8-6. The try was a result of quick thinking from scrumhalf Tim Usasz who took a quick lineout which resulted in Zee Ngwenya cutting in to beat his man before offloading to Emerick to score in the far corner.

In the second half Malaguradze narrowed the lead to two points with his third penalty before leaving the field to be replaced by France 2007 first choice flyhalf, Merab Kvirikashvili who narrowed the gap to two points with a penalty to make it 14-12 to the USA. The Eagles responded with Malifa adding a further three points to give the visitors a 17-12 lead in the 64th minute. Georgia were camped in the USA half in the final 10 minutes and gave away mulitple penalties on attack. nevertheless, the referee allowed the match to continue until well after the 80th minute with Georgia kicking a penalty of their own for touch to set up a lineout 10 metres from the USA tryline in the 84th minute. Play continued and the USA Eagles were awarded a 5 metre scrum in front of their own try line in the 86th minute. The Lelos showed their domination at scrumtime by pushing back the Eagles scrum with Abuseridze leaping over the ball to win it as it popped out of the scrum. Their moment of glory followed with winger Lexo Gugava scoring for the Georgians to the right of the posts in the 88th minute. Georgia had won the scrum by a tighthead and as Maisuradze scored USA Eagles captain Todd Clever looked at the ground wondering how his team had lost late in the game. With the try the scores were tied at 17-17 and Kvirikashvili would not fail in converting the try to give the Lelos a famous victory that will long be remembered.

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