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Japan star scores hat-trick in Clermont win over Pat Lam's Bristol

Kotaro Matsushima scored three times in the impressive victory.

ASM Clermont Auvergne's Kotaro Matsushima (right) on the way to scoring his side's fourth try.
ASM Clermont Auvergne's Kotaro Matsushima (right) on the way to scoring his side's fourth try.
Image: PA

JAPAN’S KOTARO Matsushima scored three times as Clermont opened their European Champions Cup campaign with an impressive 51-38 bonus-point win at Bristol on Saturday.

Matsushima’s tries came within the opening 68 minutes as the three-time runners-up dominated the second-tier European Challenge Cup holders with some scintillating expansive play.

Fiji’s Semi Radradra missed Bristol’s first match in Europe’s top-tier club competition since 2008 with a leg injury suffered in last weekend’s Autumn Nations Cup victory over Georgia.

The visitors were without Radradra’s Test team-mate Peceli Yato as he was refused entry into Britain due to an administrative error.

South African-born Matsushima, who starred at last year’s World Cup in Japan by scoring five tries, opened the scoring after just three minutes and added his second 23 minutes later either side of touchdowns by Apisai Naqalevu and Damian Penaud.

The French side led 29-14 at the break, already with the bonus point in the bag, as Max Malins and Bryan Byrne crossed for Bristol.

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Matsushima sealed his hat-trick with 12 minutes to go after Penaud had added a second and Fritz Lee slid over.

Bristol pushed for another bonus point for finishing within seven points as Harry Randall, Wales cap Ioan Lloyd and Tongan Siale Piatau all went over, but they ultimately failed to close the gap late on.

Later, four-time winners Leinster head to Montpellier as Toulon host Sale Sharks, who will be without head coach Steve Diamond after he resigned during the week.

On Sunday, champions Exeter Chiefs welcome Glasgow Warriors with 16 players remaining from October’s final win over Racing 92, who in turn host Connacht.

On Friday, South Africa Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe scored twice as Toulouse kicked off their quest for a fifth European Cup with a 29-22 victory at Ulster.

© – AFP, 2020

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