Holders Georgia were made to battle very hard by Spain before recording their second win of the Rugby Europe Championship 2021 in Madrid on Sunday afternoon.
Given the fact that these two sides finished second and first respectively in the 2020 event, we were expecting a cracker and we certainly got one at the Central Universitario.
The hosts were playing their first Test match since their delayed 2020 tournament victory over Portugal last month while the Georgians had defeated the same side last week to open up their 2021 campaign.
Like against Portugal in round one, Georgia showed their experience to get over the line and in key moments they showed the nouse and forward power to grind out the win.
Spain had plenty of ball, but made errors when they mattered most and although they picked up a losing bonus point their head coach Santiago Santos may feel this was one that got away.
The game got off to a very quick start with both teams showing great attacking intent.
Levan Maisashvili's Georgia side took the lead in the third minute when their scrum-half Gela Aprasidze broke through. His loose inside pass was kicked on by No.8 Tornike Jalagonia and the same man they dived on the ball to score. Stand-off Tedo Abzhandadze converted.
Spain were not shocked though and soon scored a try of their own. It came through winger Bradley Linklater and, after the referee Pierre Brousset had checked with the TMO, it was given. Stand-off Bautista Guemes converted and it was 7-7.
In the 15th minute Georgia regained the lead through a penalty by Abzhandadze.
The next 20 minutes or so were very keenly fought, but defences were on top and there were no more obvious scoring chances until Spain were awarded a penalty in the 36th minute.
That effort from Guemes hit the upright, but the same man made amends just before half-time with a penalty.
All of that meant that it was 10-10 at the break and the second period was set up nicely.
Levelling things up seemed to give Spain confidence because they started the second period with quite a bit of territory.
And they got their rewards for that territory when Guemes kicked his second penalty in the 48th minute.
In this end-to-end game, Georgia were on the scoresheet again two minutes later.
Captain Merab Sharikadze broke through the middle and fed winger Akaki Tabutsadze for a try. The conversion attempt from Abzhandadze hit the upright and the visitors were 15-13 ahead.
Spain then got themselves into the Georgia '22' after an attack was sparked following an intercept and break by back-row Ilatia Gavidi. The visiting defence managed to regroup and snuff out the danger though.
As the hour mark came and went Georgia - with a whole new front-row of Guram Gogichashvili, Jaba Bregvadze and Giorgi Melikidze now on off the bench - went further ahead.
Their next score was a penalty from Abzhandadze and they were 18-13 to the good.
With 15 minutes to go Spain closed the gap to two points when Linklater, taking over the kicking duties from the departed Guemes, kicked a penalty.
A mistake off the next kick-off gave Georgia a chance to attack though and from the resultant lineout replacement hooker Bregvadze barrelled over. Abzhandadze converted and it was 25-16.
A second Linklater penalty then reduced the arrears to six points with 11 minutes to go and set-up a fascinating finale.
As the match approached the last eight minutes Spain were desperately chasing a converted try which would help them win the game.
They battered at the Georgian line for a few minutes, but the defence of the visitors stood firm and they won a penalty five metres from their own line.
The Spanish did have one more chance to put pressure on the Georgian try line a couple of minutes later, but a lineout in the '22' was overthrown and the visitors survived this tough test.
Spain: Try: Linklater (5). Pens: Guemes (39, 48), Linklater (65, 69). Con: Guemes (5).
Georgia: Tries: Jalagonia (3), Tabutsadze (50), Bregvadze (67). Pens: Abzhandadze (15, 61). Con: Abzhandadze (3, 67).
Referee: Pierre Brousset (France).
By Gary Heatly
Images by Walter Degirolmo/FERugby & Martin Seras Lima/Georgian Rugby