‘Surprised’ reaction to Blues’ crucial misfire

While Latrell Mitchell was once again a standout, the ending of NSW’ Game Three loss could’ve been a whole different story had the Blues opted against giving the star centre a long-range penalty goal in an attempt to tie the game up.

With the Blues trailing 20-18 with just under two minutes remaining, a high tackle from Maroons forward Christian Welch on Mitchell Moses handed the Blues a penalty right on halfway.

While it remains unclear at this stage whether the decision came from Mitchell, skipper James Tedesco or Brad Fittler in the coaching box, the Blues rolled the dice rather than kicking for touch to set up an attacking set deep in Maroons’ territory.

Mitchell, who’s known to have one of the biggest boots in the game, stepped up and took the kick, only for his attempt to fall well short, landing in the arms of Queensland star Kalyn Ponga under the cross bar.

At the time of the penalty goal attempt, Maroons legend Cameron Smith admitted he was “surprised” the Blues opted against kicking for touch.

Latrell comes up short at the death

“He hasn’t missed a kick this series,” Smith said in commentary for Nine.

“He’s hit them sweetly tonight, but with the series already wrapped up, I was a little bit surprised.

“I thought New South Wales may have looked for a touch finder deep in Queensland’s territory and then gone for the win with a try.”

Following the match however, Immortal Andrew Johns supported the call, saying it would have been difficult to turn Mitchell down after he “put his hand up”.

“It’s hard to sort of make the decision when you’re in a studio. When you’re at the ground and you have a feel for it, then you’d know then,” Johns said.

“Latrell obviously put his hand up. And if Latrell puts his hand up and says, ‘I’m going to kick it’, you let him kick it.

“But with fatigue, 79th minute, a lot of running, a lot of fatigue in the legs, wet ground, wet ball – so you plant foot when your kick doesn’t dig in, it may slide a little bit.

“But you’ve got to back Latrell. If he says he’s going to kick it, you back him. Don’t question Latrell like that.”

Mitchell was asked about the moment immediately following the match, jokingly claiming that he was unable to hit it successfully due to his shorts being too tight.

“My shorts are a bit tight, I don’t know, couldn’t get my legs through,” Mitchell said.

“But look, everyone dreams of doing that kick and is what it is.”

Latrell making the best ‘look silly’

Earlier in the game, Mitchell needed little time to stamp his authority after crossing over for the opening try.

Life was made difficult for the Blues when Queensland took a 2-0 lead in the opening two minutes of the game following a costly penalty.

But when it was time for the Blues to respond, Mitchell stepped up by cleaning up a loose ball in attack, which had slipped through the hands of playmaker Jack Wighton before the centre cleaned up by saving a near 15-metres loss of field possession.

Then just moments later, Mitchell was handed the ball in a one-on-one position against Dane Gagai and stepped his South Sydney teammate to skip away into the in-goal untouched for the Blues’ first try of the game.

“We highlighted before the game the talent of Latrell Mitchell and how he’s the X-factor,” rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns said in commentary for Nine.

“Remember these players are the best in the world, the best defenders.

“In the lead-up, he gets the ball and picks it up and is just playing with the opposition.

“Then he gets the ball in space, and have a look at the footwork – they don’t get a hand on him.

“These aren’t average footballers, these are the best players in the world. He’s making them look silly.”

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