FUKUROI CITY – Australia made heavy work of it in difficult conditions but outlasted a tough Georgia team to round out their Rugby World Cup Pool D campaign with an unconvincing 27-8 victory on Friday.
The wind and persistent rain presaging Saturday’s arrival of Typhoon Hagibis made for an untidy contest at Shizuoka Stadium but the Wallabies did just enough to ensure they will top the pool if Wales slip up against Uruguay on Sunday.
That is highly unlikely but with England therefore looming as Australia’s quarter-final opposition, a run-out against a big physical tier-two team was as good a preparation as coach Michael Cheika could have wanted.
England will have little to fear from the Wallabies on this evidence, however, as the twice World Cup winners stumbled rather than cantered into the knockout stages.
Their hopes of a first fast start of the tournament were quickly quashed by a steely Georgia defence which had already made 100 tackles before scrumhalf Nic White nipped over the line to open the scoring in the 23rd minute.
No more tries were to follow before the break but Australia’s problems with the high tackle did return in the 35th minute when number eight Isi Naisarani was sent to the sin bin for an arm into the face of Georgian lock Giorgi Nemsadze.
Soso Matiashvili and Matt To’omua exchanged penalties to give Australia a 10-3 halftime lead but their frequent handling errors hampered their efforts to break clear at the start of the second half. In the end, it took a dazzling individual effort from Marika Koroibete to make the second-half breakthrough with the big winger weaving his way past four defenders to touch down on the hour mark.
Georgia were not done yet, though, and winger Alexander Todua got the biggest cheer of the night from the rain-drenched crowd when he tore down the left wing to score 10 minutes from time.
Loose forward Jack Dempsey and scrumhalf Will Genia crossed for tries in the last five minutes to earn Australia a bonus point they did not need and add a bit of respectability to the scoreline. Australia’s win means Georgia’s totemic flanker Mamuka "Gorgodzilla" Gorgodze heads into retirement without the win over a tier one team he so desired.