ATLANTA (AP) Merab Kvirikashvili scored one of Georgia’s two tries and kicked three penalties and a conversion to help his team hold off the strong-finishing U.S. Eagles 21-17 in a rugby test in the state of Georgia on Saturday.
Fullback Kvirikashvili raced half the length of the field after swooping on a U.S. attacking error to score the first try. Six scrum penalties in the first half resulted in a penalty try – while the Americans had a player in the sin-bin – to the dominant Georgian pack right on halftime to give the Lelos an 18-3 lead.
Kvirikashvili added a penalty goal three minutes after the break to extend the margin to 19 points before the Americans hit back with a pair of tries to keep the contest alive until fulltime.
Center A.J. MacGinty drew in the defense and passed wide to unmarked winger Nate Augspurger in the 57th minute after a string of penalties in the attacking quarter and converted to make it 21-10.
With Georgia a man down after a yellow card, the U.S. ran the shortside from a scrum and fullback Mike Te’o found Matt Jensen with an inside ball, setting the replacement forward on the way to the tryline in the 73rd. MacGinty converted to cut the margin to within one try.
Kvirikashvili scored all of Georgia’s points, with a converted try and two penalty goals, in a 13-0 win in Canada last weekend, giving the European team two wins from two starts in North America.
The U.S. will play Canada in a two-game Rugby World Cup qualifying series in Hamilton, Ontario next weekend and in San Diego on July 1.