Saturday, November 27 2021

Andrew Kellaway – the prodigal son of Australian rugby – is indeed at home.

The former Waratahs winger lost his way after playing as a junior, but four months after moving home to Australia he is one of the stars of the series.

The former Randwick junior wasn’t even on the radar when he returned from Japan at the end of the Super Rugby season.

But he chased down the All Blacks and Crusaders on his way back Will Jordan and the Aussie coaches stood up and noticed in Sydney.

On Saturday night, the outside-back scored a try-three to help the Wallabies claim a 32-17 victory over Argentina on the Gold Coast.

Only Israel Folau (10) has more tries than Kellaway (7) in a first season for the Wallabies, the outside back being on par with Stirling Mortlock.

The 25-year-old scored his first try to give the Wallabies a 15-3 halftime lead, but it was his next two tries – after moving to his preferred full-back position – that confirmed that Kellaway is at home.

Andrew Kellaway scored a hat-trick in the Wallabies’ victory over Argentina. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The victory was the Wallabies’ fourth straight win to complete the Rugby Championship – a historic first in the competition, including Tri Nations – with Dave Rennie’s men making the perfect answer to a disheartening Bledisloe Cup streak.

Few would have predicted that the Wallabies would topple world champion Springboks back-to-back and follow him with back-to-back wins over a typically tenacious Pumas outfit.

They will travel to Oita to face Japan later this month – the scene of their devastating 2019 World Cup quarter-final in England – with all the confidence in the world and the belief that they can extend their streak of wins against the Brave Blossoms, before continuing over the UK.

Rennie demanded a more polished, clinical performance, a hand on the throat mentality after their landslide victory a week earlier, and for 60 minutes he got just that.

Los Pumas finished with a flurry, punishing an enraged Wallabies outfit in the final quarter to score 14 straight points.

It’s only the finish that will give Rennie some ammo over the next couple of weeks to keep his players’ feet firmly planted on the ground.

“It was like that in the last 20. It was 32-3, I had the opportunity to really put my foot on the throat and we allowed a few penalties, gave up a few soft tries and didn’t been able to put the pressure on, ”Rennie said.

“Frustrating.

“Proud of the victory, until 32-3, we played very good football.”

But for a team that typically slows down out of blocks early in the game and after halftime, Rennie will be happy to make some breakthroughs.

The Wallabies are desperate for their star center Samu Kerevi, who, along with Quade Cooper, was instrumental in the team’s turnaround, will be fit for their year-end testing.

Kerevi limped after 52 minutes with what appeared to be a leg injury, which Rennie later said was the dreaded syndesmosis injury.

Folau Fainga’a was one of the best Wallabies. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Kellaway, who has described himself as ‘arrogant’ and ’empowered’ recently, moved to full-back early in the second half after Kerevi limped out following his injury.

But it wasn’t only his hat trick that revealed his clinical finishing ability, but his one-on-one tackle against Emiliano Boffelli also showed his defensive capabilities.

Much like the wonderful returns of James O’Connor and Quade Cooper, Kellaway’s maturity reveals that players need to be fed.

He wasn’t the only player to stand out, with hooker Folau Fainga’a and full backs Rob Valetini and Michael Hooper excellent.

Cooper continued to pull the right strings, while Jordan Petaia showed promise in his return to the starting side.

Quade Cooper had a strong 50-minute open. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

In their last home test of the year, Cooper scored the first points of the afternoon as both teams missed shots on goal.

It was then that Fainga’a got down to work to help allay fears about the lack of depth in the hooker.

In a position the Wallabies have struggled to fill since the retirements of Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau, Fainga’a – who has been in and out of the side for years – scored the first try and set up their second.

Over the years, Fainga’a has never had a hard time sniffing out a try on the back of a maul rolling towards the Brumbies, but his ball game to send Valetini through a hole and, in turn, find Kellaway inside was a beauty.

A strong defense on the goal line at half-time saw Argentina opt for a shot on goal, after being repeatedly denied by the maul.

More of Cooper’s magic sent Kerevi, with the powerful cross scoring after a sublime backline play.

Kellaway then showed his senses, scoring two quick tries before Argentina finally came to life in the finals as the Wallabies lost their form.


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