They’ve been Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues teammates and they now play alongside each other for the South Sydney Rabbitohs but James Roberts has recalled the time he went head-to-head in an epic showdown with Latrell Mitchell.
The occasion was Round 11 in the 2018 NRL season, when Roberts was playing for the Brisbane Broncos and Mitchell for the Sydney Roosters. The two squared off in a crunch battle before 29,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium, with the ninth-placed Broncos desperate for a win against the sixth-placed Roosters to stay in touch with the top eight.
Mitchell dominated the battle in the opening 40 minutes, bumping Roberts off one tackle to help set up the Roosters opening try for five-eighth Luke Keary. He then put Keary over again late in the second half after burning ‘The Jet’ with speed.
“He done me in the first half and I walked into the (dressing room) filthy at myself,” Roberts told the Refuse to Lose podcast.
“People were trying to give me wet towels and stuff when I sat down and I was like, ‘don’t talk to me.’
I walked over and sat by myself for a little bit and told myself to calm down, just reset.
“Thankfully I did that and got him back in the second half and it’s a good game to always watch.”
Got him back? That’s something of an understatement
After the Roosters took a 12-10 lead into the halftime break, Roberts put the Broncos back in front after sucking Mitchell in with an 'in and away' before putting winger Jamayne Isaako over in the corner off a scrum-base play
He followed that up with a try that lived up to his nickname and brought the crowd to their feet. With the Broncos trailing 22-16 and pinned in their own end on the 30-metre line, Roberts burned Mitchell with pure speed, got on the outside of the winger and stepped the fullback on his way to the line.
The Broncos would go on to score one more try through Isaako to set up a memorable 28-22 win and Mitchell and Roberts would go on, less than three weeks later, to line up alongside each other for the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues for the opening game of the Holden State of Origin series.
“We still talk about it and muck around,” Roberts said.
“It was a pretty good grudge match and I’ll always remember that one.”