'Unbelievable': NRL world erupts over freak match-saving play

Andrew Reid
·5-min read
Pictured here, Panthers forward Viliame Kikau's try-saving tackle against the Storm.
Viliame Kikau's try-saving tackle after the siren had the NRL world in a frenzy. Pic: Getty/Ch9

Rugby league fans have taken to social media in droves to hail Penrith's Viliame Kikau for one of the greatest try-saving plays of all time.

The Panthers back-rower helped his side exact revenge in the grand final rematch with a desperate after-the-siren effort that clinched the 12-10 victory.

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In what will almost certainly go down as one of the games of the year, Kikau left fans in disbelief with a last-ditch tackle that epitomised his side's never-say-die attitude.

With Melbourne on the attack after the siren and the ball going from side-to-side, the Storm looked certain to score when Justin Olam crashed over the try line.

But Kikau, who had been taken out earlier in the play and was left sprawled on the ground, managed to sprint across field, tackle Olam with the help of Stephen Crichton, and jam his arm in between the footy and the grass to prevent a certain match-winning try.

Commentators were left searching for superlatives to describe the extraordinary play, with fans gobsmacked by the dramatic ending to the match.

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Kikau's epic try-saver ended a hectic final 12 minutes, where the game swung back and forth in the after scores had been locked at 6-6 for the majority of the second half.

Josh Addo-Carr first looked as if he had scored the match-winner for Melbourne when he went over from a scrum play, putting the Storm up 10-6.

Penrith 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.

Melbourne regathered the ball after a Penrith error from the kick-off, but Kikau's heroics after the siren saved the day for the Panthers.

The result came five months to the day after the grand final, where Penrith's bid to reel in a 26-0 scoreline fell one try short.

"I don't know how to describe that. Sometimes the pain of losing drives you to do things you wouldn't normally do," coach Ivan Cleary said.

"Naturally you are going to be motivated for this game.

"It's hard to explain that last minute ... the last play of the game summed up (their courage)."

Penrith players are seen celebrating their epic win over Melbourne.
Penrith claimed victory in an early frontrunner for the game of the season. Pic: Getty

Panthers injury crisis worsens

But it came at a cost for Penrith, their spine now further weakened with a suspected broken hand to Dylan Edwards.

With Apisai Koroisau out with a broken wrist and Nathan Cleary missing on Thursday through concussion, Edwards did not return after halftime.

Edwards had been the hosts' best in the first half, before his injury left Tyrone May filling in and Penrith facing a shortage in their backline for next week.

Meanwhile the NRL's most talked about half Matt Burton didn't disappoint deputising for Nathan Cleary.

There was nothing spectacular but there were obvious signs of why Canterbury are so desperate to get their hands on him before his planned move at the end of the season.

The 21-year-old lived up to Nathan's claims he had the "biggest boot" he'd ever seen, while Andrew Johns claimed in the Nine Network's coverage he was a star of the future.

Meanwhile Nicho Hynes was superb for the Storm filling in at fullback, creating the numbers for Addo-Carr's late try.

Brandon Smith also had his best game of the year at hooker, scoring the game's opener for Melbourne after a Tom Eisenhuth one-on-one strip on Brian To'o.

"They were brave," Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

"They just kept hanging in there. But we did some silly things. Just some little points in the game where we just didn't seem to have that effort area."

with AAP

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