(Reuters) - Fullback Ioseb Matiashvili scored all of his side’s points as Georgia held on to beat a strong-finishing Tonga 16-15 in the first match of the Pacific Nations Cup tournament in Fiji on Saturday.
The 25-year-old Matiashvili converted his own try and slotted three penalties as the Lelos scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze controlled much of Georgia’s conservative play with his tactical kicking and keeping the ball close to his big forwards.
Tonga failed to develop any momentum for much of the game as they committed too many elementary errors in the face of strong Georgian defence around the fringes of the ruck and in the midfield.
The introduction of Racing 92 prop Ben Tameifuna, however, added stability to Tonga’s scrum and provided them with a superb attacking platform in the final 20 minutes.
Wingers Viliami Lolohea and David Halaifonua both crossed for tries in the final 10 minutes to give Tonga hope of snatching a late win, but a sweeping long-range attack ended on halfway with yet another handling error and the Georgians hacked the ball into touch to seal the win.
Samoa and Fiji face each other later on Saturday in the tournament which is being used as preparation for next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Georgia face Fiji next week, while Tonga play Samoa, who still have to qualify for the World Cup.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Ransom