It’s easy to lay the boot into someone lying on the ground. But when your job is to lay the boot into a ball that’s lying on the ground, well, that should be easy too.
So while I take no joy in calling out Mitchell Moses, who must be feeling the end of his side’s season after Saturday night’s loss to South Sydney more than most, I also don’t shy away from it.
Because a central aspect of the dude’s job is to kick goals for his team.
And, having slotted them with ease from the sidelines in the Eels’ loss to the Rabbitohs, his inexplicable miss from virtually right in front of the sticks has to be seen as a failing of his mental fortitude.
For those who missed the cracking game, momentum had swung between the two sides throughout the match, Souths having raced to 8-0 up before Clinton Gutherson led his troops back to an 18-8 lead at halftime.
However it was all the Bunnies at the start of the second stanza, with Liam Knight and Cameron Murray crossing the stripe and Adam Reynolds making the extras for the score to sit 20-18 in favour of the Cardinal and Myrtle.
So when Parra received a penalty from just to the right of the sticks and 15 or so metres out, with 19 minutes on the clock, a penalty goal was the smart play. In finals footy, you make sure you’re not losing before you worry about how much you’re going to win by.
What’s more, with a career kicking accuracy of 81.4 per cent and having slotted one from virtually the same spot to convert for Gutherson’s first try – to say nothing of the two he iced from the touchline for the other four points he’d scored that night – this was a gimme off the tee for Moses.
But after hearing the ‘whump’ of leather hitting synthetic, instead of looking up to see the Steeden sail between the uprights, the ball clattered off the left-hand post, was scooped up by Jaxson Paulo who combined with Campbell Graham to take the ball to 25 metres of the Eels’ line, and the Bunnies duly scored shortly thereafter.
Fox Sports commentator Andrew Voss called it “a miracle” but my catechism would suggest that it depends on who you support as to whether it was divine intervention or actually the work of the bloke downstairs.
Regardless, from tying it up to going 26-18, it was an eight-point turnaround in a matter of seconds.
And while George Jennings crossed for his second with five minutes to go – another try that Moses had no trouble adding the extras for from the chalk – it was too little too late.
In circumstances that would have seen his team square the ledger and surely seize that precious intangible known as momentum, Moses made a literal clanger (you could hear the ball clanging into the timberwork) that cost his team the season.
Now, obviously there were 12 other guys on the field at the time of the missed penalty who could have scooped the ball up, and 16 fellas on the team sheet who had the chance to stand up and rally the troops. One man can’t be held responsible for an entire team’s failings – Parramatta capitulated as a club, with even the coach having to shoulder his share of the blame.
But when the Eels were firing on all cylinders earlier in the year, there were still whispers they wouldn’t get it done because their halfback is a flat-track bully. That Moses might be able to score a spectacular chip-and-chase try against the Wests Tigers in Round 11 but when it’s time to bring the noise, the boisterous halfback will suddenly go quiet.
The thing that must be most frustrating for Parra fans is that their No.7 clearly has the skills. His mouth writes cheques his body can cash. But when the whips are cracking, it’s his brain that’s broke.
Again, he banged three conversions from the sideline on Saturday night, the kid can obviously boot a ball. So what the hell happened when he was faced with the simplest kick of the night?
The circumstances were different. And he made a miss for the ages.
I’m hesitant to write Parramatta off entirely with Moses in their side but you have to wonder what confidence there will be in the 26-year-old – who will be 27 come finals time in 2021, so arguments about maturity and experience are fading fast – if the Eels are in a do-or-die match next year and they need someone to come up with the winning play.
Seriously, they’d likely give the ball to just about anyone else. Maybe Gutherson will spend the offseason practicing his conversions for just such a scenario.
Because this iteration of Mitchell Moses isn’t going to win you big matches.