TOP PRAISE FOR BATI REPS

Play­ers hailed in build-up to 2021 Rugby League World Cup

Fiji Sun - - FRONT PAGE - SEREANA SALALO

■Vi●iame’s a pretty spe­cial phys­i­cal spec­i­men - es­pe­cially when you’re 118 ki­los and can do what he can do-Ivan Cleary ■With the game on the line, Kikau came up with the gamede­cid­ing play-Fox League com­men­ta­tor Cooper Cronk

Repub­lic of Fiji Mil­i­tary Forces Com­man­der Rear Ad­mi­ral, Vil­iame Naupoto, is de­ter­mined the Voda­fone Fi­jian Bati will be a force at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in Eng­land.

The Fiji Na­tional Rugby League board chair­man made the com­ment as Fi­jians con­tin­ued to make an im­pres­sive show­ing in round six of the NRL.

On Thurs­day, the Saifiti broth­ers, Daniel and Ja­cob, played a lead role in the Knights 27-6 de­mo­li­tion of the Bron­cos.

And he was equally im­pressed with Fri­day’s match, in which Vil­iame ‘Bill’ Kikau scored the win­ning try for the Pan­thers, in the 21-14 vic­tory against Su­liasi Vu­ni­valu’s Storm.

Also fea­tur­ing for the Pan­thers was Sau­naka, Ba na­tive, Api Koroisau.

With scores locked at 14-14 with 17 min­utes to play in Camp­bell­town, Kikau pulled off the match-defin­ing play when he charged onto a shal­low Nathan Cleary bomb, to score.

“I’m so happy to see our Fi­jian boys play­ing well,” Com­man­der Rear Ad­mi­ral Vil­iame Naupoto said.

“Our strat­egy is for them to en­hance their fit­ness and skill sets play­ing in the NRL and it is very en­cour­ag­ing to see them play­ing well.

“Their per­for­mance has re­ally boosted our prepa­ra­tions build­ing up to next year’s RLWC.”

Bau, Tailevu na­tive Kikau put on an­other in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance and head coach Ivan Cleary may have found the way to un­leash the ram­pag­ing Fi­jian.

Kikau has been the cen­tre of Pen­rith’s at­tack for the past cou­ple of years, lethal on the left edge with his bru­tal right-hand fend and ex­plo­sive power.

The con­stant crit­i­cism has been that Cleary’s men have been over­re­liant on the 119-kilo­gramme beast.

He gave Kikau an 11-minute rest, bring­ing Billy Burns on un­til Mel­bourne started to fight their way back into the con­test.

"It's a great ef­fort to beat Mel­bourne at any time so we're pretty happy," Pan­thers coach Cleary told nrl.com.

"Vil­iame's a pretty spe­cial phys­i­cal spec­i­men - es­pe­cially when you're 118 ki­los and can do what he can do. "I just think his in­ten­sity when he's been out on the field has re­ally im­proved over the past three weeks.

"He looked a bit fa­tigued at var­i­ous stages but it was good to bring him back on.”

Cleary Fac­tor

Fox League com­men­ta­tor Cooper Cronk said: “I ac­tu­ally like the move from Ivan Cleary. He’s been play­ing Kikau for long min­utes.

“20 min­utes left in this game, he’s had 10-15 min­utes on the bench. “With the game on the line, Kikau came up with the game-de­cid­ing play.

“It’s a mas­ter­stroke from coach Cleary.”

Round six re­sults: Knights 27-6 Bron­cos, Rab­bitohs 40-12 War­riors, Pan­thers 21-14 Storm.

Mel­bourne Storm winger, Su­liasi Vu­ni­valu (mid­dle), is flanked by Pen­rith Pan­thers play­ers, Api Koroisau (left) and Vil­iame Kikau.

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