Penrith Panthers forward Villiame Kikau has credited the confidence he gained from playing for Fiji at the World Cup for his devastating performance in Sunday’s 24-14 defeat of Parramatta Eels.
Kikau came off the bench just before halftime and blew the game wide open with a 42nd-minute try which swung momentum decisively in his favour.
Playing on the left edge, the 119kg second-rower targeted Eels halfback Mitchell Moses in defence with stunning effect in the second half.
“That was my role, coming on at the back end of the first half; pretty much just to run hard, tackle hard and that was it,” Kikau told NRL.com.
In a 35-minute stint, Kikau also produced five tackles breaks, one line-break, a line break assist and an offload, while running 77 metres with the ball.
He also caused the Eels to concede a number of penalties trying to contain him, including one which resulted in Moses being sin-binned.
Match Highlights: Panthers v Eels - Round 1; 2018
“Our game plan throughout the week was to make their halves work hard and I think the boys did that well,” he said.
Kikau played 10 NRL matches for the Panthers last season but is set to become a regular member of their top side after emerging from his shell while representing the Bati in the World Cup.
“They knew I had the potential and I had the talent as well, I just came out of my comfort zone at the World Cup and opened my mouth, communicated and that went well,” Kikau said.
Match: Panthers v Eels
Round 1 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium
“I got heaps of confidence out of the World Cup, it was just knowing my role and talking on the edges as well. I think that was one of my weaknesses. I played in the middle a lot coming up through the Under 20s so to play on the edge was a new role.
“I just needed more chat, just communicating with our edge, and that is one of the things I wanted to bring back to Penrith this season. I had everything I needed, I just needed to open my mouth and talk on the edge to communicate.”
The 22-year-old played alongside Eels star Jarryd Hayne in the Fiji team which reached the World Cup semi-finals and he was opposite him during Sunday’s match.
“He was on their right and I was on our left so it was good to come up against Haynesy in his 200th game,” Kikau said. “He is a great role model. “
Hayne praised the rookie and said his impact had changed the game.
“I knew he was coming, I played alongside him at the World Cup so obviously I knew how powerful he was,” Hayne said.
“Obviously, they had a game plan by starting him on the bench and it worked in their favour. He came on and was one of their game changers. He had a lot of strong runs and did a lot of great things.”