New Japan coach Jamie Joseph upbeat despite big loss to Argentina

Pumas romp to 54-20 win in Tokyo but Brave Blossoms still show quality with 13 uncapped players

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 November, 2016, 12:11am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 November, 2016, 12:11am

The history books will record Japan’s first rugby game under ­new coach Jamie Joseph as a big 54-20 loss to Argentina yesterday, but that would be misleading.

Despite coming into the game in Tokyo with 13 uncapped ­players on the back of two short mini-camps, the Brave Blossoms still showed some quality against the more experienced Pumas.

“Argentina have played New Zealand, South Africa and Australia twice each, while we’ve had one scrum session,” Joseph said of the two teams’ contrasting summers. And it was the intensity – or lack of it – that the players are used to that proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Argentina, semi-finalists at last year’s Rugby World Cup, were superb for much of the game.

Nicolas Sanchez scored two tries, three penalties and five conversions for a personal tally of 29 points. Matias Moroni and Santiago Cordero both bagged a brace of five-pointers and Tomas Cubelli scored his team’s seventh try as the Pumas ripped loose in the second half.

“It was a tough game. Japan are a good attacking side that are hard to defend [against],” said ­Pumas scrum half Martin Lan­dajo. “But in the second half we got some ­opportunities and made them right. Maybe Japan tired in the second half so we could make some good moves.”

Two penalties from Yu ­Tamura against a try by Moroni and a penalty from Sanchez saw Japan trail 8-6 at the half-hour mark. But two poor scrums and a stolen line-out saw Sanchez make it 21-6 at the break as he added two more penalties and conver­ted his own try.

“It was close in the first 20 minutes, but we made mistakes when we tried to maintain possession,” rued Japan captain Shota Horie.

In the second half, Cordero finished off a good break from Matias Orlando, and Joaquin ­Tuculet and Moroni combined to put the latter away following a turnover deep in the Argentine 22.

A try from Amanaki Lelei Mafi following some good work from the Japan pack briefly brought the crowd of 18,235 to life.

But Argentina hit back with Sanchez finishing off a length-of-the-field move that showed ­Pumas rugby at its best with forwards and backs combining well at pace.

Cordero and Cubelli brought up the half-century as the hosts tired and missed too many tackles before Japan finished the game in style with Lomano Lava Lemeki crossing for a try in his first test.