Teenage winger Louis Rees-Zammit scored a maiden try on his first start as a youthful Wales ended a six-game losing streak with an 18-0 victory over Georgia in the Autumn Nations Cup on Saturday.
Rees-Zammit also set up a try for replacement scrum-half Rhys Webb, while fly-half Callum Sheedy scored his first points in a Wales jersey with a conversion and two penalties as the home side laboured to a victory that will ease the pressure on coach Wayne Pivac.
Wales remain third in Group A, five points behind leaders England, who they host next Saturday, and they handed debuts to flanker James Botham – grandson of former England cricketer Ian – scrum-half Kieran Hardy, centre Johnny Williams and teenage fly-half Ioan Lloyd.
Georgia showed improvement from their 40-0 drubbing by England last time out, but were surprisingly outmuscled in the scrum and have now scored only seven points in their last three Tests.
The scrutiny on Pivac had intensified, with six successive defeats matching Wales’ worst run since 2012.
Having been Six Nations Grand Slam champions and World Cup semi-finalists under Warren Gatland in 2019, the former Scarlets coach had only overseen victories against Italy and the Barbarians during a miserable 12 months in charge.
Pivac made a raft of changes, with only flanker Justin Tipuric, who took over the captaincy, and full-back Liam Williams remaining from the side soundly beaten by Ireland in their Autumn Nations Cup opener in Dublin.
Wales’ set-piece has struggled in recent games, but their scrum and lineout was strong in the opening exchanges and Sheedy profited from that superiority up front to land a 10th-minute penalty.
Despite the wet conditions, Wales were keen to play with ball in hand and Rees-Zammit almost scored following Sheedy’s cross-field kick.
Rees-Zammit did not have to wait long for his first Test try, though, centre Nick Tompkins driving towards the line after 26 minutes and recycling possession.
Sheedy floated a lovely pass to the waiting 19-year-old and then converted from the touchline for a 10-0 interval lead.
Georgia hooker Bregvadze was penalised for a high tackle on Seb Davies, but Sheedy missed the chance to extend Wales’ lead.
However, he made no mistake from in front of the posts after the visitors were caught offside.
Georgia were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes when flanker Beka Saginadze caught Tipuric with a swinging forearm that led to his departure and Webb taking over the captaincy.
Webb accepted Rees-Zammit’s pass four minutes from time to seal the win, but Wales know a far sterner test awaits them in Llanelli next weekend when Six Nations champions England are their final Group A opponents.
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