Scotland saved their best till last with the most complete performance of the autumn season, albeit against opposition that proved to be desperately disappointing on the day. In an action packed match the 15,401 crowd got their money’s worth with a total of eight tries in all, six of which went to the home side.
The rest of Scotland’s points came from the boot of skipper Greig Laidlaw who was faultless off the tee, ending the day with 13 points from five conversions and one solitary first-half penalty.
If the Georgians arrived in Scotland intent on making a statement about inclusion in the Six Nations this performance only served to prove how much work they have still to do before that prospect demands serious consideration.
Finn Russell played a wonderfully controlled game, varying play and finding acres of space in the Georgian back field. All the Scottish backs took their opportunities but the platform was set by the home pack. The Scots big men bossed almost every aspect of this match with the exception of the set scrum where Georgia eventually flexed their muscles and milked one try and a couple of penalties.
Allan Dell made two turnovers in the space of one minute and brothers Richie and Jonny Gray brothers moved mountains. Ryan Wilson showed handling skills befitting a centre and the veteran hooker Ross Ford ran about like spring chicken even if some of Georgia’s first up defence was more wet cardboard than stone wall.
The visitors lost their defensive shape after one or two phases. The red shirts would line a Scottish carrier up for a big bash only to miss altogether or simply fall off a tackle. It was hopelessly amateurish. Perhaps the score board persuaded them that it wasn’t their day because the Scotland tally was whizzing round like a Catherine Wheel.
The Scots had the ‘bonus point’ banked before the half-time break, by which time this game was all but over with the home side almost out of sight at 31-11. Oddly enough the Georgians had opened the scoring.
The home forwards halted a Georgian driving maul but somehow Tommy Seymour was sucked too close to the action, leaving a gap for the lively scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze to scamper down the blindside with Laidlaw’s despairing tackle coming too late. Seymour vociferously claimed his shirt had been held but the referee was happy with the score and the small but even equally vociferous band of Georgian fans were in good voice.
The scrumhalf scored a second try after the break, this one on the back of a driven scrum, but that was it for the visitors with the exception of a couple of first half penalties. Georgia barely got into the Scottish red zone. Instead almost all of the action took place deep inside the visitors’ half of the field with the Scots threatening with almost every play of the game. A little more accuracy and the Scots would have clocked a cricket score.
Seymour quickly made up for his early defensive error by being first to Stuart Hogg’s chip ahead to level the scores just four minutes after Georgia’s opening try. The big men then won a penalty try with a driving maul, lock Konstantine Mikautadze was binned for illegally dropping it. Sean Maitland was held up when it seemed he must score and, one minute later, the same winger carried three red shirts over the line for a try when he looked well marked.
The half was finished off with a beautiful touch from Hogg who had the crowd on their feet and perhaps deserved the little slice of luck that came his way. The full-back collected the ball inside his own half, chipped ahead and the ball seemed to hit the ground and return to his hand with all the accuracy of a yo-yo for Hogg to score in the corner.
The second half was just two minutes old when Hamish Watson added to the total, with a front peel at a five-metre lineout, a move straight off the training ground. Laidlaw kicked the touchline conversion as he did every one.
The prospect of Scotland running riot goaded Georgia into dredging up the best of themselves. The entire front row was changed, Mamuka Gorgodze made a charge up the middle of the park and eventually the visitors marched a scrum over the Scottish line, Laidlaw lucky not to see yellow for kicking the ball when still in the scrum.
With the result decided long ago the game went downhill but there was still time for Ali Price to earn his first cap and it proved a memorable one. With what was almost his first touch of the ball the speedy scrum-half took a quick tap penalty and sparked the final length-of-the-field try, Rory Hughes the link man to Hogg who grabbed his second try and Scotland’s sixth four minutes from time.
Russell missed the conversion but it was just about the only time he put a foot wrong all afternoon.