Georgia captain Mamuka “Man Mountain” Gorgodze led his country to just their third Rugby World Cup win with a 17-10 upset success over Tonga in their opening Pool C game on Saturday.
Gorgodze and his teammates erupted with joy at the Kingsholm stadium in Gloucester after the famous win which capped a record breaking day as 18-year-old scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze become the youngest player in World Cup history.
Gorgodze charged over a bulldozing first half try to open up a lead which Tonga, ranked 11th in the world, rarely looked like closing.
Kurt Morath’s penalty from 30 metres out gave Tonga the opening points before full-back Merab Kvirikashvili, the only man to appear in all Georgia’s World Cup matches, missed the chance to equalise.
But Kvirikashvili was soon on target with Georgia’s record points-scorer making no mistake in the 20th minute to level the scores.
No. 8 Gorgodze, who plays for European champions Toulon, led a brilliant scrummaging effort by his side and put them on course for victory with a first-half try.
In the second half, Tonga set up a frantic finale when, with Georgia making tackle after tackle, they finally found a way through for a try by left wing Fetu’u Vainikolo.
Kurt Morath added the conversion to reduce Georgia’s lead to seven points, with Kvirikashvili sent to the sin-bin.
But Georgia hung on for the victory.
Georgia, competing at their fourth World Cup, had only previously enjoyed wins at the showpiece tournament with a 30-0 success over Namibia in 2007 and a 25-9 defeat of Romania four years ago in New Zealand.
This was an especially bitter defeat for Tonga, who beat eventual finalists France at the 2011 World Cup and came close to reaching the last eight.
After Kvirikashvili had equalised, Georgia’s forwards, six whom play club rugby in France’s elite Top 14, began to dominate
And Gorgodze, who drove hard off the back of a ruck near the Tongan line to score the game’s first try in the 28th minute.
Kvirikashvili added the easy conversion to make it 10-3 to Georgia.
Tonga thought they had scored a well-worked try off a line-out through Viliami Ma’afu but referee Nigel Owens ruled it out for a forward pass by the Pacific islanders’ captain, Nili Latu and Georgia led 10-3 at half-time.
Kvirikashvili, from 40 metres out but in a central position, failed to reward his forwards’ efforts in winning a penalty by pulling his kick wide.
However, a superb handling move involving backs and forwards ended with blindside flanker Giorgi Tkhilaishvili going over in a corner for a well-worked try just shy of the hour mark. Kvirikashvili made light of a difficult conversion and Georgia led 17-3.
Tonga were again denied when the officials correctly ruled Siale Piutau had failed to ground the ball in the 65th minute.
Vainikolo eventually crossed but Georgia held out to spark joyous celebrations among their players and fans when Owens blew for full-time.