Kikau's two minutes of Manly madness years in the making

Viliame Kikau's two minutes of madness in Penrith's record comeback against the Sea Eagles were years in the making, and came only after the rising star feared he'd blown it.

Two telling moments from Kikau highlighted the Panthers' stunning rise from a 24-6 deficit against Manly last weekend with just 13 minutes remaining – with no side in rugby league's 110-year history overcoming an 18-point deficit with so little time remaining on the clock.

The first was par for the course for the Fijian locomotive, stepping inside one defender, drawing two more and sending Nathan Cleary and Waqa Blake on a 60-metre jaunt to the try line with an offload in traffic.

But for Kikau it was his follow-up play that belongs in his highlights reel.

A determined kick-chase just 90 seconds later forced Tom Trbojevic into error, popping the ball up for Cleary once more and an astonishing come-from-behind win that may yet prove critical in the context of Penrith's season.

"That's the biggest thing I've had to work on I think, those kick-chases and effort plays," Kikau told NRL.com.

"They're the one-percenters that make your game, especially as a back-rower, that's a big part of my game and something I've really wanted to improve.

"Getting up there and holding that line. It's just my job and 100 times you do that and nothing crazy happens. That one led to the try which was good and that's why you do it.

"Luckily Tommy Turbo stepped into me because I almost missed him and then when he threw that ball Nath was right where he needed to be for it.

"I thought he was off actually, I thought he had beaten me and then I didn't think he was going to throw that pass at all.

"The first one was just me getting a bit of early ball on the edge, which is what I like to use my footwork a bit and have a bit of space. But the second play, that's the kind of thing I've had to really work at."

Still just 23 and with only 27 games to his name, Kikau's status at Penrith was made plain by his healthy contract extension through to the end of 2022 two weeks ago.

His Penrith teammates are now turning to his game-breaking ability, or as Tyrone Peachey puts it - "when Billy gets angry".

"He’s the sort of player who can turn a game on its head," says Isaah Yeo.

Which is again why Kikau is particularly proud of his extra effort on Trbojevic.

And why he and his teammates remain wary of their late-season slump, knowing that 13 minutes of pyrotechnics does not solve the previous hour of play that had them in so much trouble against a Sea Eagles side battling to avoid the wooden spoon.

"It's not what we want to be doing - giving up an early start like that and playing catch up like that because we can't win games like that in the finals," Kikau says.

"It was just a massive effort in the second half where we went back to basics and got those right first to drag ourselves back into the game.

Tom Trbojevic loses the ball in Viliame Kikau's tackle.
Tom Trbojevic loses the ball in Viliame Kikau's tackle. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"That tackle on Tommy Turbo, I was just doing my job.

"But that's what we have to do to turn ourselves around.

"Forget the flashy stuff and keep turning up for each other. That's what we spoke about during the week and that's what we have to keep doing."