Georgia made it four wins from four in the Rugby Europe Championship 2021 with a 28-17 victory over Romania in the Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi on Sunday afternoon.
Whenever the two countries meet they play for the Antim Cup and this hard fought triumph means that Georgia have won it four times in a row.
Their head coach Levan Maisashviliv will have been pleased with the way his charges managed with 14 players for 60 minutes after a first half red card.
Romania had their moments, but could not secure a famous away win and head coach Andy Robinson will rue the fact that they did not grab the game by the scruff of the neck for long enough periods.
Before and after the match the Georgian players paid tribute to Giorgi Lomtadze (aka Chorna) who passed away aged just 27 on March 18.
Georgia - after away wins to Portugal, Spain and Russia - were happy to be playing in front of their own fans and they got off to a flying start in the game with their forwards were on the front foot.
After a number of powerful scrums and ‘go forward’ ball, Romania loosehead prop Alexandru Savin was yellow carded.
That was in the seventh minute and 60 seconds later Portuguese referee Paulo Duarte awarded the Georgians a seven point penalty try.
Just before Romania were back to 15 men, Georgia stand-off Tedo Abzhandadze kicked a penalty to make it 10-0.
There was then a flashpoint moments later.
Romania full-back Ionel Melinte tip-toed down the touchline and, after he chipped ahead, he was taken out by Georgia hooker Shalva Mamukashvili late.
The referee checked the video evidence and noted it was a high shot, giving him no option but to red card Mamukashvili and leave the hosts shorthanded for an hour.
Straightaway Romania used their man advantage to get on the scoresheet, their skipper Andre Gorin crashed over for a try and when stand-off Daniel Plai converted it was 10-7.
Some great interplay between forwards and backs then got Georgia into Romanian territory in the 36th minute after they had weathered some pressure by the visitors.
Abzhandadze missed a penalty they earned against a stretched defence and it remained nicely poised at 10-7 to Georgia.
A needless late tackle by Romania scrum-half Florin Surugiu on his opposite number Gela Aprasidze earned Georgia one more penalty on the stroke of half-time and Abzhandadze made it 13-7.
Three minutes into the second half Romania closed the gap to three points once again when replacement Florin Vlaicu kicked over a penalty.
The 14-man Georgians responded with a great try in the 51st minute.
A flowing move set back-row Beka Saginadze barrelling down the touchline and when he was half stopped he offloaded to loosehead prop Beka Gigashvkili who went over for the try. Abzhandadze notched a tricky conversion and it was 20-10.
On the hour mark Romania showed they were not done yet with a try from a powerful driving lineout.
Replacement hooker Eugen Capatana scored it and with Vlaicu’s conversion it was 20-17.
A quick tap penalty by Aprasidze in the 68th minute helped the home side to score a crucial third try. The number nine fed winger Akaki Tabutsadze and he did the rest to score five points in the corner. Replacement Giorgi Babunashvili missed the conversion and it was 25-17 heading into the closing stages.
As the clock ticked over the 80 minute mark, Babunashvili kicked a drop goal to complete the 28-17 triumph.
Georgia: Tries: Penalty try (seven points, 8) Gigashvkili (51), Tabutsadze (68). Pens: Abzhandadze (17, 39). Drop goal: Babunashvili (79). Con: Abzhandadze (51).
Romania: Tries: Gorin (21), Capatana (60). Pen: Vlaicu (43). Cons: Plai (21), Vlaicu (60).
Referee: Paulo Duarte (Portugal).
By Gary Heatly
Image credit: Tamuna Kulumbegashvili