Japan crush the Gulf in Asian Five Nations

Ten-try Japan crushed the Gulf 60-5 in the Asian Five Nations on Saturday to stay on track for an automatic berth at next year’s World Cup in New Zealand.

Hong Kong kept their hopes of a play-off spot alive with a narrow 19-15 win over Kazakhstan, who also harbour hopes of reaching next year’s showpiece.

Japan, eyeing top spot this year, which brings with it a guaranteed place at the World Cup, demolished the Gulf with number eight Takashi Kikutani, right centre Alisi Tupuailei and full back Kaoru Matsushita scoring two tries apiece.

The defending champions, who defeated South Korea 71-13 in their opener last week, opened the scoring after 15 minutes through Samoa-born Tupuailei, with Arlidge converting and that appeared to be enough against the overwhelmed visitors.

There were also tries for James Arlidge, Ryo Kanazawa, Kosuke Endo and substitute Koji Wada.

The Gulf, who beat Hong Kong last week, managed to avoid a whitewash when substitute centre back Sean Hurley went over with only four minutes left on the clock.

Hong Kong scored the only two tries of a closely contested match in hot and humid conditions, through tighthead Nigel Hobler and centre Simon Hempel. Wing Alex McQueen weighed in with three penalties.

In a scrappy contest full of handling errors, Maxim Lifontov scored five penalties for Kazakhstan but the visitors failed to score a try and Hong Kong held on for the win.

Hong Kong head coach Dai Rees said he was disappointed his team had let slip the chance to notch a bonus point and to deny Kazakhstan a bonus point but added they remained in with a chance of qualifying second.

“If somebody at the beginning of the tournament had said you’ll beat Kazakhstan and Korea and you’ll be disappointed I wouldn’t have believed them. I am a little disappointed, we all are,” he said.

“We’ve got to go and get something out of Japan. It’s still in our own hands. Bonus points, win, draw or whatever, so we haven’t got to worry about what’s going on in Korea,” he added.

Kazakhstan skipper Timur Mashurov said a bonus point win against South Korea in their last match could be enough to finish second, matching last year’s achievement. “We’ll do our best,” he said.

Thirteenth-ranked Japan, the only Asian nation to have played in the World Cup, are hot favourites to seize the automatic World Cup place in Pool A alongside the hosts New Zealand, France, Tonga and Canada.

The second-placed team in the Asian Five Nations enters a play-off phase starting with a clash against Uruguay in July.

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