CARDIFF (Reuters) - Wales denied engaging in gamesmanship at the end of their narrow 13-6 victory over Georgia on Saturday, which potentially cost their unrated opponents the chance to force a shock draw in the first international meeting between the two countries.
Wales claimed they had no fit props left to come on and scrum in the last minute after substitute Tomas Francis had been sent to the sin-bin, with Georgia pressing hard near the try line.
That meant the referee was obliged to declare an uncontested scrum, costing Georgia the chance to try and push their way over the line against a seven-man Welsh scrum and force a historic result in their bid for Six Nations recognition.
"We were as confused as anyone," said coach Warren Gatland after the game at the Principality Stadium. Leon Brown and Nicky Smith had already been substituted by Wales and Gatland claimed neither were capable of coming back on despite them still being in their playing kit on the sidelines, cheering on their team mates. "It was a tactical change with Leon, but we knew he was cramping up a little bit. After the yellow card, there was a question whether he could go on. Nicky had had a bag on his calf as well. It would have been uncontested anyway with Nicky going back on at tighthead," Gatland added.
"I can promise you, there wasn't anything from our point of view in terms of trying to manipulate the laws or anything like that. If Leon had have been fit, he would have definitely gone back on to the field." Georgia instead opted to kick the ball out into touch and take a line out.
They secured the ball from the throw-in, went through 10 phases as they tried to breach the home defence before a handling error saw them penalised, allowing Wales to kick the ball out and win the test. Georgia coach Milton Haig said he was confident had his side been allowed that final scrum, they would have scored. "Absolutely," he told reporters afterwards. "I think by what happened Wales were pretty confident about that too and that is why they wanted to go to uncontested scrum. We would definitely have backed ourselves that is for sure. It's disappointing for ourselves because we gave ourselves a fair shot at that."
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Christian Radnedge)