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Georgia 10 Scotland 44: Finn Russell stars as Scots romp to confidence-building victory in Georgia

Finn Russell in action for Scotland.
Finn Russell in action for Scotland.

Scotland finished their tricky Tbilisi road-trip without damage – physical or mental – and a confidence building five-try win over Georgia.

The most important thing was that there were no further injury casualties with the squad for the World Cup in Japan being named on Tuesday, but a dominating victory over a physical Georgian side – their first away from Murrayfield for 14 months – was just what any doctor would have ordered.

Two first-half tries, both first international counters for Ben Toolis and Rory Hutchinson, set the table and had the Scots in a position of comfort before the first 20 minutes were completed.

A committed but uninventive Georgia rallied for a try in the second half but Hutchinson scored his second and Graham added his side’s fourth with Finn Russell pulling the strings and having a strong hand in all four scores when he was on the field.

After he left young lock Scott Cummings added a fifth try as the Scots just about matched their last win over Georgia, at Kilmarnock three years ago.

Russell had his first kick charged down but was nearly faultless after that, stamping his authority on the game in a fashion that bodes well for Japan, especially the pool games against the host nation, Samoa and Russia, teams that may be of similar quality to the Georgians.

The players who might have been nervous after the awful performance in the first warm-up game in Nice – notably Toolis, Darcy Graham and a number of replacements – all made Gregor Townsend’s final call for the 31 to go to Japan tougher than he might have anticipated.

Scotland had been slow starters in both games against France but the first quarter in Tbilisi went as well as could have been hoped.

Over-eager Georgian infringements gave Greig Laidlaw the chance to set a foundation with two successful penalties in the first ten minutes, and Scotland then added a quick one-two of tries with Russell doing the prompting.

First the stand-off dummied and sliced through a gap in the Georgian defence, Matt Fagerson was in support and Laidlaw was there to send Ben Toolis crashing over for his first Scotland try, the scrum-half converting.

Then Russell sent a probing kick behind the Georgian defensive line for Darcy Graham to race on and into the 22, but although the quicksilver wing was held short the Scots worked position for Rory Hutchinson to score his first international try in his first start.

Laidlaw added the conversion again and Scotland’s only issue was some pressure on the Georgia put-in at the scrum.

Full-back Sosa Matiashvili kicked a penalty after Allan Dell had made a high tackle on Tedo Abzhandadze, but the Scots then won a penalty at the scrum, kicked for position and eventually won a penalty right in front 15 metres out, Laidlaw easily restoring the 20-point advantage at the break.

Scotland were lucky when a Grant Gilchrist pass to Fagerson went to ground and Otar Giorgadze seized on the loose ball, but with an overlap on the left the miss-pass to an unmarked Modebadze was wild and in touch.

Scotland took that good fortune upfield for a third try, Graham being literally held up just short in the right corner but from a scrummed penalty award Russell and Blair Kinghorn combined with slick passes to put Hutchinson through for his second try, Laidlaw converting for a 30-3 lead.

Penalties against Scotland pushed them back right under the shadow of their own posts, and replacement loose head Asieshvili drove under Hutchinson’s tackle for a try, converted by Lobhanidze.

But Scotland, bolstered by some fresh legs, went back up the other end for a fourth try, replacement Josh Strauss carrying well twice in the build-up and Russell’s grubber kick into the corner of the in-goal area snaffled by Graham for his fourth try in five tests.

Cummings, who has played all three warm-up games, came on for Barclay and was rewarded with his first international try, bashing over under the posts after the Scots again opted to scrum a penalty close to the Georgian posts.

Georgia: Soso Matiashvili; Mirian Modebadze, Zurab Dzneladze, Davit Kacharava, Sandro Todua; Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mikheil Nariashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gigashvili; Shalva Sutiashvili, Kote Mikautadze; Otar Giorgadze, Beka Saghinadze, Beka Gorgadze.

Replacements: Giorgi Chkoidze for Mamukashvili 56, Karlen Asieshvili for Nariashvli 56, Levan Chilachava for Beka Gigashvili 56, Giorgi Nemsadze for Giorgadze 56, Lasha Lomidze for Sutiashvili 66, Gela Aprasidze for Lobzhanidze 55, Lasha Khmaladze for Modebadze 55, Tamaz Mchedlidze for Matiashvili 56.

Scotland: Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham, Rory Hutchinson, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Allan Dell, Stuart McInally (capt), Willem Nel; Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist; John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.

Replacements: Grant Stewart for McInally 63, Jamie Bhatti for Dell 57, Zander Fagerson for Nel 57, Scott Cummings for Barclay 69, Josh Strauss for M Fagerson 57, Ali Price for Laidlaw 57, Adam Hastings for Russell 63, Huw Jones for Johnson 48.

Ref: P Gauzere (FFR).

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