Best Start Ever


© Martin Seras


Glocester. September 19 – Pool C opener finished with Georgia’s first up victory against Tonga. It totally paid off for what The Lelos have worked so hard during RWC preparations. With this history-maker fixture, they won the third World Cup match in the history of Georgian Rugby.


This epochal match found Tongan try-line was crossed twice – once with experience and the second time with the young talent. Mamuka gorgodze, with his new nickname “Captain Fantastic” brought the first try to Georgia, later Giorgi Tkhilaishvili did the same for his country.

The first penalty of the game worked for the rivals, who opened the score with their 3 points. But soon we leveled the score with another penalty kick from Merab Kvirikashvili just before Gorgodze’s  try 10:3.

The second half brought us the second try, when Merab Kvirikashvili ran almost the half the pitch passing inside to Nemsadze from right wing at the edge of touch line. Ball went wide finding Victor Kolelishvili offloading to Gorgodze. Back it went to Lobzhandze, who had to struggle to keep it. 24 years old flanker Giorgi Tkhilaishvili was first to pick up the ball from ruck running towards Tongan try line, meanwhile handing off one opposition player prior to touch down for another 5 points for Georgia. Convertion was good to fix 17:3 at the score board.

Although two tries at each half, there was a quite possibility Ikale Tahi to level the score during final eight minutes of the match when The Lelos went man shorter after Merab Kvirikashvili, was sin-binned following a late try from Tonga wing Fetu’u Vainikolo.


Key facts from Georgia's 17-10 win over Tonga in Pool C of RWC 2015

- Georgia claimed victory in their opening RWC match for the first time in four attempts.

- It was Georgia's third RWC win, after beating Namibia 30-0 at RWC 2007, and Romania 25-9 at RWC 2011.

- Georgia scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze became the youngest player in RWC history aged 18 years and 340 days, lowering the record of Thretton Palamo, who played for USA at RWC 2007, by 33 days.

- Full-back Merab Kvirikashvili became Georgia's most-capped player with 86, overtaking Irakli Abuseridze (85). Kvirikashvili is also the only Georgia player to appear in all 13 of their RWC matches to date.

- Georgia made 213 tackles against 48 by their opponents.

- Kvirikashvili converted both Georgia's tries to continue their 100 percent conversion success of their RWC tries. They have now scored 11 RWC tries and kicked 11 conversions.


Post-match press-conference


Milton Haig


On the victory against Tonga:

“It’s been four years of planning and work for everybody involved. It’s a focus we’ve had in the last two years since we qualified and we knew if we were going to have a chance to create history for Georgian rugby (by finishing third in the group) we had to win this game today.”


On Georgia causing an upset and stepping up to a higher level:

“When you can defeat a team like Argentina, then you can talk about getting to the next level. Again, it’s about being consistent with your test wins. We’re pretty good at winning one a year or two a year against higher ranked teams, but our goal is to compete consistently with the top eight teams in the world. There’s still a lot of water under the bridge for that to happen."


On what the victory agains Tonga was built on:

“A lot of bloody hard work. The last three months have been pretty hard for everybody involved, the coaches and players, and I think today we showed that. Fitness-wise we were able to sustain our defence over the 80 minutes and that allowed us to come away with the win.”


On the performance of captain Mamuka Gorgodze:

“He’s absolutely critical, not only as our captain, but also as a vital team member. He’s someone that the rest of the guys rally around and so obviously is pretty important to us.”


On being underestimated by the rest of the world:

“I spoke to one of the Tonga players I coached in New Zealand after the match and he said maybe they underestimated us a little bit, they were focusing on other games. That’s an interesting comment to hear because all our focus was basically on this game. In terms of people underestimating us, I’m not sure. Maybe."


"A lot of people don’t know too much about us so maybe they do underestimate us a little, but I’m sure with that victory today some people will be reconsidering that now.”


On the team's chances of beating Argentina:

“I think that would be nice, but it's a pretty big obstacle. But the win today gives us a lot of confidence. It gives us a bit of momentum, a bit of self-belief and a team that has a bit of self-confidence and belief, if the bounce of the ball goes our way on the day, as well as the referee’s decisions, who knows what can happen.”




On the mix of youthful and experienced players in the squad:

“Today in the Georgian team there were a lot of players who were young, but I think you could not tell from the outside who was a young player and who was an old player, because they all gave 100 per cent."


"All the players played the same way, with the same intention, and all the players gave 100 per cent physically."

On his performance and being named man of the match:

“I don’t like to talk about my own performance. I am the captain and I think this is why I was man of the match, but all the players were the same today. The small nations like Georgia are very tight, more than professional sides. We are friends and brothers.”


On making 27 tackles in the game:

“My body is feeling perfect, but my head is more important. I think if we had lost my body would be dead but I’m liking it today.”


On the effort his side made to keep Tonga at bay:

“The Tonga team is very hard to play against. It’s always a tough game, and a physical game, and it was a very difficult game today.”


On what the victory means to Georgian rugby:

“I think this was the best victory in our history, because we are a very small team. Maybe we have players that play in good teams, but we’ve never had a win like this.”


On the prospect of facing Argentina in the next game:

"They are big favourites. Argentina are one of the best teams in the world in the scrum, but maybe we’ll change history. Maybe Georgia will be the best, but maybe after the game I can say that. Argentina is one of the best teams in the world and it will be very, very difficult. I’m sure that Georgia will give everything.”


On facing Toulon teammate Fernandez Lobbe (ARG):

“He is a great player, a big player and one of the favourite players in the world. I still play with him, but now I’ll play against him.”


On the chances of Georgia one day challenging the Six Nations:

“Why not? But for the moment we must play against the teams like Canada, Japan and Tonga before we go to play against the Six Nations.”


Merab Kvirikashvili


On his reaction to the win:

"It's unbelievable, we were waiting and waiting and hanging on at the end, we wanted to win so bad."


On his personal performance, including missing a few of his kicks:

"Unfortunately I missed a couple of important penalties, but it turned out OK because we were everywhere in defence, we were all over the park, and we got the win in the end."


On soaking up the Tonga pressure at the end of the match:

"It was so much pressure, we had a huge team to hold off, we defended like mad men, it was amazing."




On where the game was won and lost:

“We concentrated for 80 minutes and that won us the game. Our goal was to give away minimum penalties in defence and less people in the breakdown, and we did it and won. We have been preparing for this game for years and that's why."

On the Georgia supporters inside Kingsholm Stadium:

"The Georgia supporters were our No 16 today and they were great. We were feeling this all the way from Georgia as well as inside the stadium."


Vasil Lobzhanidze


On securing victory in his first World Cup match, at which he also became the youngest player to appear at a Rugby World Cup:

"I feel really happy, I feel so good, so excited. We defended so well at the end."


On the Tongan pressure towards the end of the match:

"It was a hugely difficult defensive effort, but we managed, we did well."




On the victory:

“You could see by the reaction of the players, fans and coaches at full-time how much this meant to us. There was a certain amount of relief too, given the intense pressure Tonga were applying towards the final whistle."


“I think, overall, when we led 10-3 at half-time it was a good place to be and that lead meant Tonga had to come out and play. We set up a defensive structure from there and until their try we did enough to get over the line.”



Georgian time


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