Nicolás Sánchez contributed 29 points as Argentina defeated Japan 54-20 in Tokyo on Saturday.
Starting compellingly, Japan looked motivated as they camped inside the visitors’ half of the field, while Argentina appeared shaky in the early stages. But once Los Pumas found their rhythm, Japan’s bravado took a backseat to the superior skill set of the Argentinians.
Sánchez and wingers Matías Moroni and Santiago Cordero scored two tries each, but the flyhalf was the star of the show by adding 17 points off the kicking tee.
The hosts did well to stay in touch, as they reached the 30-minute mark trailing 6-8. But a 13-point haul – via a self-converted try and two penalties – from Sánchez in the last 10 minutes before the break pushed Argentina out to a handy 21-6 lead.
If that didn’t hurt Japan’s prospects of claiming another big scalp in the Test arena, Cordero’s try from a stolen lineout and Moroni’s five-pointer from a counter-attack soon after the interval surely did. But just as things started to look ominous, the Brave Blossoms hit back.
No 8 Amanaki Mafi, overshadowed by his direct opponent Facundo Isa throughout the game, burrowed over from close quarters to score Japan’s first try and Yu Tamura converted.
That didn’t deter Argentina, who continued to run the ball at every opportunity. And they reaped rewards, as Sánchez was on the end of the final pass to complete a superb team effort before Cordero completed his double.
The end-to-end action lasted right until the final whistle with both sides scoring at the death, but it had no impact on the outcome of the game as Argentina were just too far ahead.
Japan – Try: Amanaki Mafi, Lomano Lemeki. Conversions: Yu Tamura (2). Penalties: Tamura (2).
Argentina – Tries: Matías Moroni (2), Nicolás Sánchez (2), Santiago Cordero (2), Tomás Cubelli. Conversions: Sánchez (5). Penalties: Sánchez (3).
Japan – 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lava Lemeki, 13 Amanaki Lotoahea, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa (c-c), 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 7 Yuhimaru Mimura, 6 Uwe Helu, 5 Samuela Anise, 4 Kyosuke Kajikawa, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie (c-c), 1 Satoshi Nakatani.
Subs: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Heiichiro Ito, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Malgene Ilaua, 21 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 22 Takahiro Ogawa, 23 Timothy Lafaele.
Argentina – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Leonardo Senatore, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Ramiro Moyano.
Photo: Paul Ellis/Getty Images