Munster in strife as Kikau saves Penrith in stunner
A stunning trysaver from Viliame Kikau and Stephen Crichton after the siren has given Penrith a wild 12-10 victory over Melbourne, avenging their grand final re-match.
Crichton had seemingly kicked his team to a dramatic win when he showed nerves of steel to convert Kurt Capewell's solo try with two minutes remaining on Friday night.
However that wasn't to be his final contribution, with the star centre combining with Kikau to hold up a rampaging Justin Olam over the line on the final play of the game.
Kikau had also gotten up just moments after being knocked over from a decoy on the other side of the field that had been cleared by the video referee.
"We pride ourselves in just effort," Kikau told Channel 9.
"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."
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Ivan Cleary struggled to find the words to describe Kikau's effort.
"Sometimes the pain of losing drives you to do things that you wouldn't normally do. That's the only way I can best describe it," he said.
"They're naturally going to be motivated for this game."
The chaotic finish in front of 14,077 fans came just moments after Melbourne appeared to have won a when Penrith hooker Mitch Kenny picked up the ball from an offside position at the restart.
The hotly-anticipated grand final re-match was anything but, with 12 of the 34 players that featured in the decider either retired, injured, suspended or moved on to other clubs.
Ryan Papenhuyzen, Dale Finucane, Harry Grant and Felise Kaufusi were all missing for the Storm, while co-captain Nathan Cleary and Api Koroisau were also out for the Panthers.
But it failed to prevent two sides widely tipped to again feature at the end of the season from producing a gripping contest, complete with a remarkable ending not dissimilar to last October.
Penrith hadn't conceded a single point over the opening two rounds but Melbourne took just 10 minutes to open them up, with Brandon Smith burrowing over from close range.
However it was all tied at the break when Dylan Edwards created space for Charlie Staines in the 31st minute, with the Storm re-taking the lead in the 61st minute through Josh Addo-Carr.
"Last week we got across the tryline three times and couldn't get it down. That happened to us twice tonight. We've just got to nail those opportunities," Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.
PINNED DOWN PANTHERS
Already without Cleary (concussion) and Koroisau (wrist), Penrith are now looking at being without Edwards for an extended period.
The Panthers No.1 was having one of the games of his career, keeping the home side in the game with a game-high six tackle breaks and 110 metres in an impressive first half showing.
But Edwards failed to take the field in the second half after suffering a suspected fractured hand, with the versatile Tyrone May filling in at the back.
"Losing Dyl Edwards at halftime was a tough one. T-May just showed his versatility again
BURTON FLASHES POTENTIAL
There's been plenty of debate over whether the Panthers should release Canterbury-bound playmaker Matt Burton early, and the promising playmaker showed why.
The 21-year-old flashed a kicking game that drew praise from Andrew Johns, and a neat passing game, including a first-half cutout that should've ended in a try, that thrilled Billy Slater.
"The hype around Matt Burton, we just got a glimpse of why, and what the Bulldogs are looking forward to next year," Slater said on Channel Nine commentary.
Cleary also gushed over his replacement.
"Yeah he's got the biggest boot I've ever seen to be honest," Cleary said.
MUNSTER IN STRIFE
A week after Felise Kaufusi copped a two-match ban for his sickening elbow on Parramatta's Ryan Matterson, Munster was at the centre of another questionable incident in the countdown to halftime.
In a tackle also involving Storm giant Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Kenny Bromwich, Munster appeared to use his body weight to pull down on the back of Leniu's legs with the Panthers forward showing immediate signs of distress.
The incident did not draw a penalty and was not put on report but certainly didn't go unnoticed by the big home crowd who let their feelings known as the players left the field soon after.
Asked what he thought of the incident, coach Ivan Cleary was direct:"I didn't like it. I didn't like it. And it hurt him."
Pressed on whether it was a hip-drop tackle, he said: "Don't ask me. I'm not going to answer that. I just didn't like it. And it hurt him."
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy conceded the replays on Munster, who was on the wrong end of another hip-drop tackle last year that forced him out for a couple of weeks, weren't pretty.
"Yeah it didn't probably look good. But they didn't see too much wrong with it," he said.
Last season, Melbourne's Jesse Bromwich and St George Illawarra's Tyrell Fuimaono were the first players to be suspended for "hip drop" tackles after the NRL issued a memo warning of a crackdown on the dangerous tackling technique.
Melbourne's Max King was then suspended for three games by the NRL judiciary in October for an ugly tackle on St George Illawarra's Blake Lawrie.
King was sent straight to the judiciary without a grading, unprecedented for a hip drop.
Greg Alexander labelled King's tackle "intent to injure" which sparked a war of words with Storm coach Craig Bellamy.
Munster's tackle was not in the same ball park but still didn't look great with Fox League commentator Andrew Voss speaking on behalf of many watching the replays.
"Oh boy, that looked awkward at the finish too," Voss said.
"He got twisted over the back and more than a grimace from the young Panthers forward.
"It is all very awkward and you look at the weight in that tackle.
"Nelson 125kg, Munster 95kg and Kenny 100kg. They all end up on Leniu.
Cooper Cronk added: "He is in trouble.
"We saw Munster on the legs trying to roll him onto his back and the knee and the ankle got caught underneath.
"This doesn't look good you have Munster, Asofa-Solomona and Bromwich and that (the pull to the ground)."
Originally published as Munster in strife as Kikau saves Penrith in stunner