One of the least memorable or remarkable wins in Wales in recent times came at a pivotal moment for Wayne Pivac, when he stopped the rot of six consecutive defeats by beating Georgia.
The next team in white to come here is England – and Wales will have to sharply rebound their ideas to get close to their old enemies based on their post-Covid performance.
Due to the wild West Walische weather, the youthful backline, of which five starters 25 years and younger, could not show their budding talents.
Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit crashed into the corner for his first international attempt
But Callum Sheedy, who was in control of the circumstances, took eight points, Louis Rees-Zammit scored his first Welsh try and Rhys Webb took another as the set-piece clearly improved against the Georgians who haven’t scored a run yet in this tournament.
This inevitable win is welcome for Pivac, but the acid test comes against the English next week. He cannot afford to burn himself badly.
With Justin Tipuric out, he may need to find a whole new back row, with Taulupe Faletau (knee) and Josh Navidi (concussion) still not fit.
Bringing in James Botham – the grandson of English cricket legend Ian – was a clever trick by Pivac and Co.
The rookie deserved his early cap, but it also took so much attention to Wales and how desperate they have been in recent weeks.
A win here was crucial against a Georgian side that had never defeated the traditional ‘Tier 1’ opposition in 25 previous attempts. Defeat was never on the map.
Pivac made 13 changes after the eviction of Ireland, as he planned, giving debuts to Botham, Johnny Williams, Kieran Hardy and later Ioan Lloyd, using a backline largely discovered by himself, except for Liam Williams.
His new men rewarded him in the first half. Johnny Williams – who was recovering from testicular cancer this time last year – looks like the man to straighten the No. 12 Welsh line.
He carried tall Georgians in very hard to leave room for others. Sheedy barked at everyone, was the loudest player on the field, and looks to the future.
Grandson of English cricket legend Ian, James Botham enjoyed a stress-free debut in Wales
For Rees-Zammit’s attempt, Nick carried Tompkins close to the line to drag the men in so that the 19-year-old would get a room on the left, and the Gloucester wing passed on the left.
That came in 25 minutes, 15 after Sheedy hit a penalty, and the fly-half whacked the wide conversion to put Wales’ lead 10-0 at half-time.
Occasionally in the first half a few ghostly renditions of the songs we know from Cardiff Test Days drifted with the wind – the Parc y Scarlets DJ clearly told them to stick the CD they sell at the gift shop onto the CD to wake up the team here.
They looked better, albeit against a vastly inferior opposition. The Dublin horror show was backed up by two wall-like men in Wyn Jones and Samson Lee – Pivac said before picking them out as Wales’ best two scrummagers.
There is a somewhat outdated view of Georgia as the world’s most formidable platoon; they might have been there in years gone by, but having been torn up front by Scotland, England and now with Wales also winning penalties, those days are behind Los Lelos for now.
Wales had to work in the second half. However, it was a heavy old night, with crackling rain dampening the already limp spectacle in these Covid times.
Wayne Pivac will no doubt be a man relieved after Wales end their six-game losing streak
The pre-game puddle in the center of the field got soggy as the game went on, so maybe it was a night to kick goals, win, and then find the nearest stirring cup of cocoa.
Unfortunately for Wales, Sheedy missed his next – perhaps not used to the way the wind blows five different directions at once here – but took the next one from the front.
Then, after a typical electric break from Rees-Zammit, he fed Tipuric and the captain was beaten cold. To his credit, referee Luke Pearce immediately stopped play and the flanker was later ridden away on a motorized stretcher.
For the bad tackle Beka Saghinadze got a yellow card and Rhys Webb took over the captain for Hardy.
Webb scored at the end to seal it – best of all, it meant the flames started to burn to warm everyone up.
For the four debutants, it was a day to remember for the rest of their lives, but the rest would have a hard time remembering it would all come full time.