IRELAND laboured to a win over a game Georgian side in their Round 3 Autumn Nations Cup fixture at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Irish coach Andy Farrell will be well aware that the performance levels will have to increase significantly for the visit of Scotland next week in the third/fourth place competition decider.
Some of the Irish play in the first half was decent enough, but Ireland seemed to lose their way in the second period, with the fall away in performance seeming to occur when the impressive outhalf Billy Burns was forced to leave the fray in the 46th minute.
Ireland got the first score of the game when Burns scored his first try for Ireland, with a quick dart through the Georgian cover in the 9th minute, after a delightful pass from the sharp looking Chris Farrell, and by the 14th minute Burns had a try, a conversion and a penalty to his name, as Ireland led 10-0.
The score of the game arrived in the 17th minute, and it wasn’t an Irish one. Georgia ran a training ground move from just inside their own half and when full back Soso Matiashvili gave a reverse pass to Giorgi Kveseladze the centre suddenly found himself in acres of space.
Everyone on the pitch expected him to look for support, but he kept running, threw a couple dummies and just about touched down under the posts despite some desperate Irish tackling.
Burns steadied the Irish ship with a 23rd minute penalty, and eleven minutes later Ireland were in for their second try after a period of exerted pressure.
The pack had softened up the Georgian defensive line with a series of meaty carries before the Ulster pair of Burns and Stockdale combined to put Hugo Keenan away in the right corner.
Stuart McCloskey was extremely unlucky to have a try disallowed for a marginal forward pass from Stockdale in the build-up in the 39th minute, as the big Ulster centre had finished brilliantly from half way, as Ireland led 20-7 at the break.
It was Georgia who struck first in the second half with a well struck penalty from Georgian outhalf Tedo Abzhandadze in the 48th minute, and Ireland ended a spell of twenty four minutes without a score with a penalty from replacement outhalf Ross Byrne in the 58th minute, as Ireland struggled to control the tie once the impressive Billy Burns was forced off with an injury.
Cork Con’s Shane Daly got on the pitch to replace Keith Earls in the 63rd minute to receive his first cap, but the Irish attacking play in the last quarter was both predictable and sloppy and the Munster man did not get too many opportunities on the ball as Ireland frustratingly failed to score a try in the second half.
Scorers for Ireland: Burns (1 try, 2 pens, 2 cons), Byrne (1 pen), Keenan (1 try).
Georgia: Abzhandadze (1 pen, 1 con), Kveseladze (1 try).
Ireland: Stockdale, Keenan, Farrell, McCloskey, Earls, Burns, Murray; Stander, Connors, Beirne, Ryan (capt), Porter, Herring, Bealham.
Subs: Ryan for Porter (HT), Byrne for Burns (46), Healy and Marmion for Bealham and Murray (57), Roux and O’Mahony for Ryan and Beirne (62), Daly for Earls (63), Heffernan for Connors (67).
Georgia: Matiashvili, Tabutsadze, Kveseladze, Sharikadze (capt), Mchedlidze, Abzhandadze, Lobzhanidze; Gorgadze, Jalagonia, Saginadze, Jaiani, Cheishvili, Gigashvili, Mamukashvili, Nariashvili.
Subs: Kaulashvili for Nariashvili (50), Javakhia for Jaiani (62), Gachechiladze for Gorgadze (63), Chkoidze and Tapladze for Mamukashvili and Mchedlidze (66), Kaulashvili for Gigashvili (70), Alania for Lobzhanidze (75)
Referee: Mathieu Reynal (Fra).