Ireland 14 Georgia 10: Leamy puts brake on heroic effort by Georgia

Click to follow

There were ouches all round and sympathetic groans from the spectators as they watched Ireland take a remorseless pounding from a Georgia pack who after the final whistle on Saturday inspired a standing ovation, even from some of the thousands wearing green.

Those fans may have thought that this would be a five-pointer to be banked on the way to two crunch games in Paris, though the team did not. The Irish are now as confused and bewildered off the pitch as Eddie O'Sullivan's men appear to be on it.

Ireland narrowly escaped the upset of the tournament so far, thanks to the No 8 Denis Leamy putting his not inconsiderable frame between the ball and a driving maul in the final minutes.

The first quarter had at times resembled amateur night at the end of the pier and it took nearly 10 minutes for Ronan O'Gara to kick his side into Georgian territory. Overall, however, Georgia had over 60 per cent of the possession, nearly 70 per cent of the territory and all of the physical presence.

For O'Sullivan and his captain, Brian O'Driscoll, this was a time to be honest. O'Sullivan accepted that, apart from Rory Best's drive-over try, there had been too many errors in the first half, that Ireland had not guarded possession, and that there had been some loose kicking. Thank heavens, then, for Girvan Dempsey's match-winner early in the second period.

O'Driscoll said this was one of the hardest of the 77 Test matches he has played: "We expected to perform better than we have but that's as physical as Test rugby gets. They just grew with the game." But that is what a Six Nations team are supposed to be able to do, especially against a side who have most of their players not just plying their trade away from home, in France, but some in the lower divisions to boot.

O'Sullivan refused to say whether his policy of sticking with his favoured 22 players may have to change, and said that if his team had been weaker mentally they would have been beaten by the final surge the Georgians summoned from gasping lungs and hearts.

The wing Giorgi Shkinin's 70-yard interception try from a loose Peter Stringer pass was inspiring in a 10-point patch either side of half-time, when the Ireland flanker David Wallace was in the sin bin.

O'Sullivan said: "I think we need a good pounding; that's the sort of thing that stands you in good stead."

That was all very well from a man in a sharply cut suit with a brand new four-year contract in the jacket pocket. Some of his team must have woken up very bruised yesterday, knowing they need a big one against France on Friday. It could be make or break and some do not have four more years for another try.

Ireland: G Dempsey; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, D Hickie; R O'Gara, P Stringer; M Horan, R Best, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, S Easterby, D Wallace, D Leamy. Replacements: J Flannery for R Best, 53; S Best for J Hayes, 66; I Boss for Stringer, 70; N Best for Easterby, 72.

Georgia: O Barkalaia; G Elizbarashvili; R Gigauri, D Kacharava, G Shkinin; M Kvirikashvili, B Samkharadze; M Magarvelidze, G Shvelidze, A Kopaliani, I Zedginidze (capt), M Gorgodze, I Maisuradze, R Urushadze, G Chkhaidze. Replacements: L Datunashvili for Zedginidze, 32; I Machkhaneli for Barkalaia, 34; A Giorgadze for Magarvelidze, 48; D Khinchagashvili for Kopaliani, 48; O Eloshvili for G Elizbarashvili, 51; Z Maisuradze for I Maisuradze, 58; I Abuseridze for B Samkharadze, 72.

Referee: W Barnes (England).