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Rugby Union: GEORGIA OFF WALES' MINDS; Wales 24, Georgia 7 France next up in World Cup.

Byline: Huw S Thomas

WALES made the best possible start to their campaign in 35th Under-19 Junior World Cup as they beat a big, heavy and very competitive Georgian side to set up a quarter-final clash with hosts France at Versailles on Sunday.

Georgia had made Wales struggle at the same stage in last year's World Cup, but this time there was little doubt about the outcome despite a strong finish by the Georgians.

``We knew how difficult this game was going to be and the boys controlled things well for almost all the game,'' said coach Dai Rees.

``The two tries we scored were real crackers and we can now face France with confidence.

``We also defended superbly against a very physical side, but will look for further improvement in the hope of taking revenge against a French side that beat us 38-10 two weeks ago.''

Wales had the best possible start, putting lots of pressure on the Georgian defence to allow fly-half Matthew Jones (Neath) to kick three early penalties.

Jones missed a long-range penalty after 22 minutes, but soon after was at the end of a sweeping Welsh attack to send wing Richard Fussell (Pontypridd) haring over wide out.

With the swift and talented back row of Jonathan Edwards (Pontypridd), Chris Davies (Bridgend) and James Merriman (Gloucester) in dominating form, Wales took a firm grip on the game.

A fourth Jones penalty took Wales into a deserved 17-0 lead, before the young Dragons scored a brilliant try in the 52nd minute after a break by the explosive Davies was carried on by Merriman and finished off by Bath lock Jonathan Mills. Wales had to defend desperately in the last 10 minutes against the driving Georgian pack and were down to 12 men after three yellow cards from Irish referee Alistair McKay.

Props Ross Davies (Cross Keys) and Nathan Trevett (Cardiff), along with Newport No.8 Richard Dale were all sin-binned before Wales finally conceded a very late try to Georgian lock Archil Alikadze, converted by full-back Teim Sokhadze.

Wales U-19: L Andrews (Cardiff); R Fussell (Pontypridd), S Ireland (Cardiff), G Evans, R Williams (both Llanelli); M Jones (Neath) (T Marks - Llanelli, 63), R Wells (Swansea) capt (J Ireland - London Welsh, 57); Cai Griffiths (Neath) (N Trevett - Cardiff, 61), D Goodfield (Llanelli) (W Kay - Newcastle, 53), R Davies (Cross Keys) (P Osborne - Cardiff, 34-36), J Mills (Bath), I Evans (Pontypridd) (B Thomson - Harlequins, 48), J Edwards (Pontypridd) (P Osborne - Cardiff, 64), C Davies (Bridgend) (R Dale - Newport, 54), J Merriman (Gloucester) (P Scudamore - Gloucester 59).

Wales: Tries - R Fussell, J Mills; con - M Jones; pens - M Jones (4).

Georgia: Try - A Alikadze; con - T Sokhadze. First round results: New Zealand 51, Namibia 17; Italy 7, Ireland 33; Scotland 38, Romania 6; Argentina 35, Japan 3; South Africa 71, South Korea 0; England 31, Russia 10; Wales 24; Georgia 7; France 41, Canada 7.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Apr 11, 2003
Words:485
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