Just 48 hours after Greg Inglis was given an emotional send-off at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night, Sydney Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell left no doubt that he was the game’s next genuine superstar by leading the premiers to a 42-12 defeat of Wests Tigers.
Mitchell scored a hat-trick and laid on two of the Roosters other four tries as well as kicking seven goals to finish with a personal haul of 26 points for the match at the SCG on Saturday night.
The 21-year-old carried the ball for 202 metres from just seven runs and was only tackled twice in the match as he made two line breaks and five tackle breaks, as well as saving two tries.
After having to endure comparisons with Inglis since his Telstra Premiership debut in the opening round of the 2016 season, Mitchell is now at a level where other emerging stars will be compared to him.
“I don’t really like comparing players but Latrell is definitely moving into that space," said Tigers coach Michael Maguire, who coached Ingis at South Sydney.
"Some of the things I have seen Greg do over time are pretty similar to what happened out there tonight. I’ll leave it at that. He is a good player."
Match: Roosters v Wests Tigers
Round 8 -
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
While Rabbitohs team-mates paid tribute to Inglis by performing his trademark goanna celebration after scoring tries against the Broncos on Thursday night, Mitchell has adopted the Kangaroo and he did it after his second try.
“I am just very passionate," Mitchell said. "I love scoring tries for the Roosters, I love entertaining people, I love putting people in seats."
His performance against the Tigers was as good as any by an individual in recent memory, with Greg Alexander declaring during the Fox Sports commentary that Mitchell would have been awarded a rare 10 if Rugby League Week still existed.
"It was always hard to get a perfect 10 in Rugby League Week's [player ratings] back in the day, but Latrell just got a 10," Alexander said.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson agreed, saying: “If it was the Rugby League Week 10 out of 10, it would be. I remember Peter Sterling getting a 10".
However, the man himself said he had fallen short of the perfect game.
“People are saying it’s 10 out of 10 but I don’t think it is,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t help the boys coming out of the back field and that is something I really want to pride myself on. I scored the tries because of the boys on the back field."
The seven tries to two drubbing confirmed the Roosters as the top team of the competition and catapulted them to first place ahead of South Sydney on for-and-against.
The Tigers were on the back foot from the outset after a fifth minute penalty against Robbie Farah within easy kicking distance for Mitchell compounded their failure to complete their first two sets, due to handling errors by centre Robert Jennings and fullback Moses Mbye.
Mitchell crossed for his 50th NRL try 10 minutes later after racing 60 metres from a Boyd Cordner pass tapped on by Luke Keary and swerving past Mbye before diving to avoid a diving Esan Marsters tackle on the Tigers line.
Former Roosters utility Ryan Matterson, who was a member of last year’s premiership winning team, drew level for the Tigers in the 26th minute when he received the ball from a 20-metre scrum win and stepped infield to score.
However, the Roosters quickly regained the lead when winger Daniel Tupou stepped between Marsters and Matterson to score in the 34th minute after a simple catch and pass movement from Mitchell.
The Australian and NSW centre then laid on a try for Keary when he crashed through an attempted tackle by Marsters and grubbered ahead for the 2018 Clive Churchill Medalist to collect the bouncing ball and score just before halftime.
Farah got the Tigers back into the contest when he reached out from dummy half to score and reduce the deficit to 18-12 in the 45th minute.
Magical Mitchell tames Wests Tigers
However, any hopes of a comeback were short-lived as Mitchell crossed for his second try five minutes later after interchange forward Sitili Tupouniua leapt above Mbye for a Keary kick and passed to his superstar team-mate.
Nat Butcher scored his first NRL try in the 57th minute before Mitchell completed his hat-trick five minutes later. He intercepted a Farah pass and danced along the touchline as he skipped out of an attempted cover tackle by Luke Garner to race 80 metres and score.