In-form winger Andrew Kellaway took a hat-trick of tries as Australia concluded their Rugby Championship campaign with a comfortable 32-17 win over Argentina on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Kellaway’s three tries took his season tally to eight, while Folau Fainga’a and Samu Kerevi also crossed over to help the Wallabies achieve four straight wins in the Southern Hemisphere competition for the first time.
Replacement prop Thomas Gallo scored two consolation attempts for Argentina in the final quarter but the Pumas return home after a long and grueling tour without winning their six championship games.
The bonus points win saw the Wallabies finish second in the championship behind New Zealand.
Australian skipper Michael Hooper was pleased with his team’s recovery after three defeats against the All Blacks. “We were really excited, we had three tough games at a trot against the Kiwis, so to turn things around and… get four wins, it shows some really nice things for us,” said the flanker, who had thrown sin in the trash in the last minute.
The first 27 minutes of the game were a battle for field position and it wasn’t until Pumas Lock’s Tomas Lavanini was shown a yellow card for a lineout foul that Australia were able to increase Quade Cooper’s early penalty. Fainga’a almost immediately fired from close range from a lineout of five yards and the hooker played an integral part in the second try seven minutes later.
In a steady motion, Fainga’a swept around the back of the lineout and his pass set Rob Valetini free for an attack down the middle with the big number eight found Kellaway in support to get the job done.
Emiliano Boffelli converted a penalty after a period of sustained pressure from Argentina to narrow the deficit to 15-3 at halftime, but Australia took their third attempt shortly after the restart. From a good attacking position, Cooper did smart to open a hole in the defense before sending Kerevi through with an agile pass.
In the 54th minute, Kellaway skipped a handful of tacklers for his second try, and his third followed four minutes later after Australia overlapped.
The Argentine team was selected without leaving Queensland to travel to New South Wales during the week with six team players violating Covid-19 protocols and banned from the championship. However, the Pumas never give up and Gallo found two close quarters over the try-line in the last 17 minutes to make the score a little more respectable.
“I am very proud of the players’ commitment after two months away from home,” said Pumas captain Julian Montoya. “We played very hard for the whole 80 minutes, but it’s not enough. It would be nice to play at home after two years.”