Penrith have proved their premiership mettle as a flying Viliame Kikau helped them to an impressive 21-14 NRL win over Melbourne on Friday night.
With scores locked at 14-14 with 17 minutes to play, Kikau pulled off the match-defining play when he charged onto a shallow Nathan Cleary bomb to score.
The play clearly infuriated Melbourne captain Cameron Smith, who labelled the Storm’s finish as “uncharacteristic” as Kikau went unchallenged for the ball just metres from the line.
Cleary then slotted a field goal from 30 metres out with four minutes to play to seal the victory.
The win was just the Panthers’ third over the Storm since 2005, and ensured they will finished the round in the top four and among the competition’s frontrunners.
It also means they can add the Storm to their list of scalps for the year, after also beating defending premiers Sydney Roosters in round one before losing narrowly to Parramatta last week.
In a high-quality match at Campbelltown, both sides completed at above 80 per cent in a match that ebbed and flowed throughout.
The Panthers dominated the early stages, allowing Stephen Crichton to open the scoring after some nice lead up play by Jarome Luai and Josh Mansour.
They then handled a significant amount of pressure on their line, before Cameron Munster had his first impact by putting Felise Kaufusi over.
Penrith then got a key penalty just before the break, when Smith was penalised for taking out Cleary on a kick chase, allowing the playmaker to make it 8-6.
The Storm skipper argued his case with referee Ashley Klein, but opted not to challenge the call when asked by Klein if he wanted to.
Smith did eventually use his challenge, unsuccessfully appealing that Penrith had made a second effort on Suliasi Vunivalu to put him into touch in the second half.
Both sides then traded tries before Kikau’s match winner.
Penrith were again up by six when they outnumbered Melbourne on the right to allow Brian To’o to cross in the 50th minute.
But again Melbourne hit back through Munster’s hands, as he laid on a bullet two-man cut out pass for Brenko Lee to cross untouched.
Melbourne then levelled the scores through a penalty goal, before Kikau’s powerful run onto Cleary’s kick condemned the Storm to their second loss of the season.