Viliame Kikau and Stephen Crichton combined to pull off a miraculous try-saver to help the Penrith Panthers secure a nailbiting two-point victory over the Melbourne Storm on Thursday evening.
The highly-anticipated Grand Final rematch at Panthers Stadium proved a gritty arm wrestle from start to finish, culminating in a thrilling final passage of play.
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The Storm were leading by four points before Penrith second-rower Kurt Capewell scored a classy try in the 78th minute.
Capewell’s fancy footwork was enough to penetrate Melbourne’s defence, and Penrith took the lead when Crichton converted the try.
But in another late twist, Storm centre Justin Olam almost spoiled the party by diving over for a try after the final siren.
With zero seconds remaining on the clock, Melbourne’s players were desperately spreading the ball towards the left wing.
Olam opted to sprint for the tryline instead of passing towards speedster Josh Addo-Carr waiting on the wing, a decision which ultimately backfired.
Replays showed that Kikau and Crichton miraculously prevented the four-pointer, the video referee deciding there was no conclusive evidence to award the try.
Incredibly, Kikau had moments earlier hit the deck after colliding with an opponent player, and needed to return to his feet before the game-saving move.
The home crowd celebrated wildly when the verdict was handed down as Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy fumed in the viewing box.
“It was a tough game how we lost it,” Bellamy told reports after the defeat.
“It was disappointing, frustrating there are a lot of words you could use.”
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“We pride ourselves in just effort, effort and effort,” Kikau said after the win.
“Just turning up for each other. I thought it was an obstruction there but seeing as the ball was still alive I just stood up and chased him. That was pleasing to stop that try at the end.”
Rugby league icon Phil Gould tweeted: “That’s a game! Brilliant stuff. Panther wins. Great entertainment.”
The Panthers did not concede a point in the opening two rounds, and remain undefeated in the 2021 premiership — this is only the second time ever Penrith have won three straight games to start a season.
It also marks the first time Melbourne has lost consecutive NRL games since 2018.
The Storm will next host the Brisbane Broncos in Melbourne, while Penrith will take on the Sea Eagles next Thursday evening.