Prodigal son is home as Wallabies win four straight to finish Rugby Championship

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Andrew Kellaway scored a hat-trick during the Wallabies’ win over Argentina..
Andrew Kellaway scored a hat-trick during the Wallabies’ win over Argentina.. Photo: Getty Images
 

Andrew Kellaway – the prodigal son of Australian rugby – is well and truly home.

The former Waratahs winger lost his way after starring as a junior, but four months after arriving home in Australia he is one of the stars of the show.

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 All Blacks and Crusaders flying back Will Jordan and Australia’s selectors stood up and noticed in Sydney.

On Saturday night, the outside back scored a hat-trick of tries to help lead the Wallabies to a 32-17 victory over Argentina on the Gold Coast.

Only Israel Folau (10) has more tries than Kellaway (7) in a debut Wallabies season, with the outside back drawing level with Stirling Mortlock.

The 25-year-old scored his first try to give the Wallabies a 15-3 lead at half-time, but it was his next two tries – having shifted to his preferred position of fullback – that confirmed Kellaway is home.

The victory was the Wallabies’ fourth straight to finish The Rugby Championship — a historic first in the competition, including the Tri Nations — with Dave Rennie’s men making the perfect response to a dispiriting Bledisloe Cup series.

Few would have predicted the Wallabies would knock over the world champion Springboks back to back and follow it with consecutive wins over a typically dogged Pumas outfit.

They will head to Oita to take on Japan later this month – the scene of their 2019 World Cup quarter-final devastation to England – with all the confidence in the world and a belief they can extend their winning run against the Brave Blossoms, before continuing onto the United Kingdom.

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

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

It was just the finish that will give Rennie ammunition over the next couple of weeks to keep ensure his players’ feet firmly planted on the ground.

“It felt like that in the last 20. It was 32-3, had the opportunity to really put the foot on the throat and we gave away a few penalties, gave up a couple of soft tries and weren’t able to build pressure,” Rennie said.

“Frustrating.

“Proud of the win, up to 32-3 we played some pretty good footy.”

But for a side typically slow out of the blocks at the start of the match and after half-time, Rennie will be pleased they are making inroads.

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

Kellaway, who described himself as “cocky” and “entitled” recently, shifted to fullback early in the second half after Samu Kerevi limped off to the sidelines following a knock to his leg.

But it wasn’t just his hat-trick which revealed his clinical finishing ability, but his trysaving one-on-one tackle on Emiliano Boffelli showed his defence capabilities too.

Just like James O’Connor and Quade Cooper’s magnificent returns, Kellaway’s coming of age reveals players need to be nurtured.

He wasn’t the only player who stood out, with hooker Folau Fainga’a and back-rowers 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 opening 50 minutes.
Quade Cooper had a strong opening 50 minutes. Photo: Getty Images

In their final home Test of the year, Cooper scored the opening points of the afternoon as both sides missed shots at goal.

It was then that Fainga’a went to work to help ease the fears around the lack of depth at 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 opening try and set-up their second.

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

Some strong goal-line defence on the stroke of half-time saw Argentina opt for a shot at goals, after being denied a couple of times from the maul.

More Cooper magic sent Kerevi in, with the powerful centre scoring after a sublime piece of backline play.

Kellaway then showed his nous, scoring two quick tries before Argentina finally came to life in the final stages as the Wallabies lost their shape.

From Fox Sports