Australia 35-15 Georgia: Wallabies begin World Cup bid with first win since Eddie Jones’ return

Mark Nawaqanitawase runs into a Georgia tackler to score
Mark Nawaqanitawase improved his strike rate to five tries in eight tests for the Wallabies
Australia (21) 35
Try: Petaia, Nawaqanitawase, Donaldson 2; Pens: Donaldson 3; The inconvenients: Donaldson 3;
Georgia (3) 15
try Ivanishvili; Pens: Matkava; The inconvenients: Abjandadze

Australia beat Georgia at the Stade de France to kick off their World Cup campaign and claim the first victory of coach Eddie Jones’ second term.

The Wallabies have lost all five of their Tests since the former England coach’s return in January but have found form when they need to with Jordan Petaia, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Ben Donaldson in for Tests.

Successfully negotiating their first match puts Australia at the top of a group that also includes Wales and Fiji, who meet on Sunday in Bordeaux.

Georgia, with a victory in November 2022 against Wales under their belt and the support of their local fans thanks to a group of 12 France-based players in their squad, had raised the prospect of an upset.

However, Australia were too strong, structured and ruthless to get bogged down in a battle against the underdogs.

The strength and speed of Will Skelton, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou and Richie Arnold kept the ball in reserve on the forefoot, while the intense running of Samu Kerevi and, in particular, Marika Koroibete made inroads off the coast.

Some wobbly kicking from flyhalf Carter Gordon will give Jones food for thought, who has already stripped his only specialist flyhalf of his duties off the tee, while scrumhalf Tate McDermott’s apparent concussion – suffered in a collision with Beka Gorgadze’s knee – will be a concern.

Georgia will have a fortnight to review and reassess before facing Portugal, while Australia will next face Fiji, two places above them in the world rankings.

Luka Ivanishvili celebrates his try for Georgia
Luka Ivanishvili’s try briefly hints at Georgia comeback

Australia took some of the pain out of the encounter inside two minutes as Nawaqanitawase’s 50:22 gave them field position and Petaia twisted past tackles from winger Akaki Tabutsadze and fullback Davit Niniashvili to score.

Koroibete’s blistering kick return set up a second try soon after, with Nawaqanitawase taking advantage of McDermott’s blind dart and Petaia’s deft offload.

Georgia’s hopes of dominating the scrum to gain a foothold in the match proved in vain as a tall Australian pack held firm and even drew penalties of their own.

Donaldson, unlike Gordon’s 20% success rate in the Wallabies’ final warm-up Test against France, looked reliable from the start as Australia moved to 18-3 after 20 minutes.

Georgia stopped the bleeding, then came out in fine form for the second half, flanker Luka Ivanishvili lingering to collect a missed long pass and slide into the corner.

At 21-8, the underdogs began to grumble late and briefly. But their resistance ended when their hopes were highest.

Niniashvili broke away from the field to a roar from the crowd but, short of support, he threw a loose pass straight to Tupou who fired a pass back to Donaldson to catch the other end and land a killer punch.

Donaldson powered his way through an undermanned defense for a second as the game ran out of steam with substitute Beka Gigashvili’s late barge to give Georgia the last word, but little else, of the contest.

“We have always been confident”

Australia head coach Eddie Jones: “We’ve always been confident about our performance. We’ve seen how hard the players have worked and you don’t play like that at the start if you’re not confident.”On making fun of him every time his face appeared on the big screen: “Obviously I’m not popular, mate, at least that’s consistent. You either want to be popular or unpopular, so at least I’m still unpopular. I can handle that.”

Georgia head coach Levan Maisashvili: “If you look at our matches over the last two or three years, we are no longer content with scrums. Everyone understands that you cannot limit yourself to scrums if you want to beat the best countries, because in some matches , you may only have four or five melee in total.

“We are now scoring a lot of tries with our backs and today we created quite a few good chances. We have some talented players and we are trying to balance our play with the forwards and backs, the attack and the defense.”


Australia: Donaldson; Nawaqanitawase, Petaia, Kerevi, Koroibete; Gordon, McDermott; Bell, Porecki, Tupou, Arnold, Skelton (captain), Hooper, McReight, Valetini.

Replacements: Vunivalu for Petaia (58), Foketi for Kerevi (41), White for McDermott (35), Schoupp for Bell (50), Faessler for Porecki (59), Leota for R. Arnold (62), Gleeson for Skelton (33) . Not used: Nonggorr.

Georgia: Niniashvili; Tabutsadze, Tapladze, Sharikadze (captain), Modebadze; Matkava, Lobjanidze; Abuladze, Mamukashvili, Papidze, Cheishvili, Mikautadze, Jalagonia, Ivanishvili, Gorgadze.

Replacements: Kveseladze for Niniashvili (62), Abzhandadze for Matkava (69), Aprasidze for Lobzhanidze (52), Gogichashvili for Abuladze (52), Gigashvili for Papidze (41), Jaiani for K. Mikautadze (59). Not used: Zamtaradze, Tsutskiridze.

Sin bin: Modebadze (40)

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