Celebrate in Style

The Georgian National Rugby League side, Tsameti Kartveli, celebrated their country?s Independence Day in style last Saturday as they downed the Netherlands 57-16 in front of 10,935 wildly enthusiastic fans at Vake Stadium [1], Tblisi. The match, which was broadcast live on Georgian national television, was the second step for each team on the road to the 2008 World Cup in Sydney.

Both nations may be relative newcomers to the sport, but the match opened in traditional style with heavy defence by both sides characterising an early ?softening up? period.

Early field goal attempts are fast becoming a trademark of the Georgian game, and in the seventh minute Merab Kvirikashvili opened the scoring for the home side with a one-pointer. The lead was not to last however, with a penalty goal to Aaron de Jager in the tenth minute giving the Dutch side the edge. The Georgians took the lead back three minutes later with the first of their four first-half tries however, and were never headed again. A late first-half try by Duncan Taylor kept the Netherlands in the hunt, and at the break the score was 23-10.

The second half opened with renewed sting in defence, but in the 50th minute prop Tornike Ashvetia crashed over for the hosts. The floodgates finally opened eight minutes later, with the Georgians putting on three tries in the space of only six minutes. A consolation try to Duncan Taylor 12 minutes from time added respectability to the scoreline, but the Georgians weren't finished yet, running in two more tries in the last three minutes of the match.[/color]

The match marked the second time that the two sides have met, the first encounter ending in a 34-14 victory to the Georgians in Hoek van Holland a year earlier. Netherlands Coach/Manager Ian Thompson stated ?Georgia have improved big style since last year. They are big fast and all have very good hands. Defence was like a brick wall (we gave as good as we got mind you in a very competitive first half).?

On the atmosphere surrounding the match, Thompson added ?Boy do they make a noise. Players ten meters from the touchline could not hear instructions, the referee at times found that the players could not even hear his whistle. On the field it was a very daunting atmosphere but our guys lifted the game and responded to this.?

?I have been involved in league (including ten years in the top flight in England) for 30 years and I can honestly say I have never experienced anything like it. At full time we had a police escort onto the bus and out of the city as the crowd lined the streets and gave us a send off with flags waving and horns blowing.?

Thompson also commended the Georgians as wonderful hosts, and despite no quarter given on the field, reported great camaraderie among the players off the field. ?Brilliant people all weekend, brilliant city and we were treated like major celebrities. A truly magnificent experience.?

With two wins from as many matches, Georgia now appear near certainties to progress to the main European qualifying tournament in October, whilst the winless Netherlands face an uphill battle to remain in the hunt.

Georgia 57 Tries: Shalva Sutiashvili 2, Zviad Koberidze 2, George Asatiani, Revaz Gigauri, Lexo Gugava, Merab Kvirikashvili, Tornike Ashvetia, Beqa Kurashvili. Goals: Merab Kirikashvili 8 Drop Goals: Merab Kirikashvili Netherlands 16 Tries: Ducan Taylo 2 Goals: Aaron de Jager 4