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.
“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.
“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.”