Argentina crush Japan in opening end of year Test

by AFP

Argentina spoiled Jamie Joseph's first game as head coach of Japan by crushing the Brave Blossoms 54-20 in swashbuckling style on Saturday.

The marauding Pumas bared their claws against a new-look Japan side, dominating in all areas with fly-half Nicolas Sanchez orchestrating a comfortable victory in the Tokyo sunshine.

Sanchez scored 29 points, booting 19 points and adding a pair of tries, while Matias Moroni and Santiago Cordero also touched down twice as Argentina showed glimpses of the form that swept them to the semi-finals of last year's World Cup.

A late try from substitute Tomas Cubelli brought up Argentina's half-century and will give New Zealander Joseph plenty to ponder before three fly-away tests in Europe.

Japan, who themselves lit up the World Cup by famously winning three matches under Eddie Jones, began brightly as Yu Yamada's early penalty opened the scoring.

But from then on it was one-way traffic.

Moroni raced down the right wing to score and Argentina began to turn the screw after Sanchez collected a pass from scrumhalf Martin Landajo to score, before his trusty right boot forged a 21-6 halftime lead for the visitors.

The floodgates opened when Cordero touched down in the corner moments after the restart and Moroni finished off a slick breakaway move after 49 minutes.

CampeseAmanaki Mafi bulldozed over for Japan soon after, but Sanchez capped a breathtaking team try for Argentina before Cordero scored again and Cubelli completed the rout.

A late consolation from Lomano Lemeki did little to paper over the cracks for Japan, whose momentum has stalled woefully since the World Cup.

The Japanese look a shadow of the team which produced the biggest shock in the tournament's history by stunning mighty South Africa 34-32 and then toppling Samoa and the United States.

Asia's top side, who lost a pair of home tests against Scotland earlier this year, face Georgia in Tbilisi next week and then Wales and France away later this month.