After a lackluster performance in the opening round, Penrith’s forward pack showed the competition what they were truly made of against the Wests Tigers yesterday afternoon.
On the back of an impressive debut from Fijian monster Viliame Kikau and high energy minutes from James Fisher-Harris and Sitaleki Akauola, Penrith dominated the Tigers through the middle and defended like their life depended on it.
New recruit James Tamou – who ran for 142 metres against the Tiges as opposed to 80 metres against the Dragons the week before – said he and his fellow forwards met with coaching staff prior to last weekend’s game to discuss how they were going to turn things around.
“We sat down and had a talk about it, but we didn’t see it as a crisis or anything like that,” he revealed to the Weekender.
“We knew what the problem was, we knew what we had to do. It was just talking about it and putting it into action on the park, and I believe we did that.”
Tamou wasn’t the only Panthers forward to improve on their opening round performance, with Trent Merrin and Reagan Campbell-Gillard also cracking the 100 metre mark and looking their usual selves.
For the Cowboys premiership winner though, he blamed nerves for his uninspiring debut with his new club.
“My performance this week was a lot better than Round 1,” Tamou admitted.
“I’d have to put it down to nerves in that first game, I hadn’t felt like that for a while.”
One player who didn’t show any signs of nerves in his debut NRL game was 21-year-old Fijian prop Viliame Kikau.
Scoring a try and running for 70 metres, the former North Queensland youngster was the star attraction in Penrith’s 36-2 flogging of the Tigers.
Tamou, who once mentored Kikau at the Cowboys, labelled it one of the most impressive first grade debuts he’s ever seen.
“It was an impressive debut alright, I haven’t seen one like that in a while,” he said.
“We all know what he is capable of… he’s a big boy, he’s got good footwork, he can offload and hit hard.
“He had a few injuries last year and hadn’t enjoyed a full pre-season with Penrith yet, so that would’ve done him good.”
The Panthers will look for back to back wins when they take on the Sydney Roosters this Saturday night at Pepper Stadium. With the Roosters undefeated to start the year, Tamou said Penrith are going to have their hands full.
“They are 2-0 and are starting to get a roll on,” he said.
“They are a good side, a really good side.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.