Viliame Kikau has pulled off the defensive play of the year to help the Panthers claim a 12-10 win in the grand final rematch over the Melbourne Storm at Penrith Stadium.
- Viliame Kikau made a desperate tackle to hold up Justin Olam over the line in the last play of the match
- The Panthers had taken the lead in the dying minutes courtesy of a converted Kurt Capewell try
- The home side had lost to the Storm in last year’s grand final
With the Storm on the attack after the siren and the ball going from side-to-side, the reigning premiers looked certain to score when Justin Olam went over the line.
But Kikau, who had been taken out earlier in the play and was left sprawled on the ground, sprinted across field to hold Olam up and save the try.
It ended a thrilling clash that swung back and forth in the final 12 minutes after scores had been locked at 6-6 for the majority of the second half.
Josh Addo-Carr looked as if he had scored the match winner for the Storm when he went over from a scrum play, putting the Storm up 10-6.
The Panthers then took the lead with two minutes to play when Paul Momirovksi flicked a ball to Charlie Staines, who stepped and found Kurt Capewell back inside him.
Stephen Crichton converted to give the Panthers the lead with a minute on the clock, but the Storm regathered the ball after a Penrith error from the kick off.
But Kikau’s heroics after the siren saved the day for the Panthers, who lost 26-20 to the Storm five months to the day in last October’s grand final.
The win came at a cost for Penrith, however, with their spine now further weakened with a suspected broken hand to fullback Dylan Edwards.
A fortnight after Apisai Koroisau broke his wrist and with Nathan Cleary out through concussion, Edwards did not return after half-time.
Edwards had been the hosts’ best in the first half, before his injury left Tyrone May filling in and the Panthers facing a shortage in their backline.
Meanwhile, the NRL’s most talked about half Matt Burton did not disappoint deputising for Cleary.
There was nothing spectacular from Burton but there was plenty of signs of why Canterbury are so desperate to get their hands on him before his planned move this summer.
The 21-year-old lived up to Cleary’s claims he had the “biggest boot” he had ever seen, with his spiral torpedoes regularly getting Penrith out of trouble.
Nicho Hynes was superb for the Storm filling for Ryan Papenhuyzen at fullback, creating the numbers for Addo-Carr’s late match-winning try when he swapped sides at the scrum.
Brandon Smith also had his best match of the year at hooker, scoring the opening try for the Storm after a Tom Eisenhuth one-on-one strip on Brian To’o.