TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan thrashed Tonga 35-13 on Sunday in a Pacific Nations Cup game that went ahead as a mark of respect for the victims of a deadly earthquake the previous day.
Meanwhile, Australia A and New Zealand Maori recorded their second wins of the tournament with close-fought victories over Pacific island opposition over the weekend.
Japanese officials had considered calling off the match in Sendai after a powerful quake struck the northern prefectures of Miyagi and Iwate.
Nine people were killed and more than a dozen still missing after Saturday’s earthquake.
But the game went ahead and Japan produced an impressive performance to secure a bonus-point win with tries from Takashi Kikutani, Hirotoki Onozawa, Shaun Webb and Bryce Robins.
Flyhalf James Arlidge slotted five penalties as Japan’s “Brave Blossoms” bounced back from last week’s 42-21 defeat by Australia A in Fukuoka.
Number eight Lotu Filipine scored Tonga’s only try in the 10th minute in an error-strewn display from the visitors, also beaten by Japan in last year’s tournament.
“The team played for 80 minutes and showed really good commitment across the field,” Japan coach John Kirwan told reporters. “We are playing a style that suits the players.
“We showed real courage in defence and took risks with ball in hand. That combination and the speed we play means we are finally playing like a Japanese side.”
Timana Tahu and Morgan Turinui scored tries for visiting Australia A in their 20-15 victory over Samoa in wet conditions in Apia.
Mark Gerrard and Matt Carraro both kicked a penalty and conversion each for the Australians, who lead the table on nine points after earning a bonus point for the win over Japan.
New Zealand Maori have eight points after a Jason Eaton try and Callum Bruce’s late penalty gave them an 11-7 win over Fiji at a rain-soaked Lautoka.
The match had been in danger of being called off before kickoff after torrential rain swept across Churchill Park and left ankle-deep puddles in some parts of the field.
New Zealand Maori host Samoa in Hamilton, while the Australians play Tonga in Sydney next weekend.
Japan face Fiji in Tokyo in a rematch of their pulsating clash at last year’s World Cup which the Fijians won 35-31.
(Additional reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Auckland)
Reporting by Alastair Himmer; Editing by Padraic Halpin