Five-try Pumas cruise past Tonga

Argentina moved one step closer to the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals after they showed their class to see off Tonga 45-16 in Leicester on Sunday.

In this kind of form they will be a match for anyone in the latter stages of the competition and it's worth noting this performance was put on without the quality of centres Juan Martin Hernandez and Marcelo Bosch. Nicolas Sánchez was superb.

The fly-half scored a second-half try and ended with 25 points, with Joaquin Tuculet, Juan Imhoff, Julian Montoya and Santiago Cordero making it a five-try win.

Tonga laid a couple of early high tackles on their opponent, which gave referee Jaco Peyper a reason to warn them, but it was their attacking weapons that were the major talking point early on, with fly-half Kurt Morath finishing off on the right after some extremely lazy Pumas defence.

Returning to the line-up after missing their impressive win over Namibia, Morath unfortunately could not add the extras as he struck the post.

Argentina would make significant inroads by the seventeenth minute and it was scrum-half Martín Landajo who was the catalyst, spotting rather absent guards at the ruck and taking full advantage. Consequently the back-tracking Tongans offended to give Sanchez a kick that made it 3-5.

It proved to be the beginning of a purple patch for los Pumas, with prop Ramiro Herrara's break into the Tongan 22 and setting up full-back Tuculet for their first try. Sanchez slotted the tough conversion and suddenly the tournament dark horses were leading 10-5 after 20 minutes.

That swiftly became 17-5 two minutes later when a free-flowing move from the restart saw Imhoff crossing for his third try at this World Cup.

Sanchez, as he has throughout 2015, was kicking supremely well and landed a penalty to go with his conversion as the lead continued to grow. Fortunately for Tonga a scrum penalty then went their way and Morath thumped over three points to stop the rot just after the half-hour mark.

They did more than that before the break though as dangerous running from Fetu'u Vainikolo gifted them front-foot ball with which fellow wing Telusa Veainu brilliantly set up loosehead prop Soane Tonga'uiha in the corner. Morath's missed extras meant it was 20-13 to Argentina at the break.

Mana Otai's side should have been well onto the comeback trail early into the second-half but fly-half Morath could only successfully land two of three penalty attempts at goal. His opposite number, Sanchez, was having no such trouble as his 44th and 53rd minute efforts made it 26-16.

The tries appeared to have dried up as the enormity of the price of victory possibly began to lay a little heavier on the minds of both teams. It wasn't through lack of trying however as Tomás Lavanini did manage to get over the line but was found to have been held up under the posts.

One minute later they did have that third try and it came from man-of-the-match Sanchez, who found a hole five metres out for a 31-16 lead. His missed conversion was a rare blot on his copybook as Argentina now looked to have the game sewn up. The carrot of a bonus-point was dangling.

Roared on by their passionate supporters, it duly came and replacement hooker Montoya was the scorer before wing Cordero capped an impressive performance, as Argentina march on to face Namibia in what should be the smoothest of passages to the knockouts.

Man of the match: What a performance from Argentina fly-half Nicolas Sánchez. 25 points and some lovely game management from the number ten emphasises how priceless he is to their hopes of making it deep into the business end.

Moment of the match: We go for the three minute spell midway through the first-half when Argentina clicked into gear with ball in hand and were outstanding. Excellent tries from Joaquin Tuculet and Juan Imhoff left Tonga shell-shocked and in all honesty they did not recover from that.

Villain of the match: Nothing dirty to report.

The scorers:

For Argentina:
Tries: Tuculet, Imhoff, Sanchez, Montoya, Cordero
Con: Sanchez 4
Pen: Sanchez 4

For Tonga:
Tries: Morath, Tonga'uiha
Pen: Morath 2

Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Horacio Agulla.

Tonga: 15 Vungakoto Lilo, 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Sione Piukala, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Nili Latu (c), 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Joseph Tuineau, 4 Tukulua Lokotui, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Sona Taumalolo, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Sitiveni Mafi, 20 Opeti Fonua, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Latiume Fosita, 23 David Halaifonua.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

by Adam Kyriacou at Leicester City Stadium