The stop in play halted Cronulla’s momentum and they bombed a golden chance for more points or even a repeat set. Cronulla caretaker coach Josh Hannay labelled the incident “ridiculous”.
Phil Gould said on the Nine commentary the stoppage rule needed to be looked at, especially given Kikau had been able to run nearly 90m just seconds beforehand, and cheekily added: “Put that down for a try-save for the physiotherapist.”
That is now three wins on the trot for Cronulla, and they will back themselves against the inconsistent North Queensland next Friday.
But they are unlikely to be without skipper Wade Graham, who failed to return after appearing to be concussed again when going low on Rob Jennings.
Graham, who suffered head knocks in rounds six, seven and nine this year – and had countless other concussions throughout his career – wobbled around as he tried to get to his feet, then started to hop on one leg.
Cronulla officials later said Graham had actually passed his head injury assessment, but because he was unsteady on his feet immediately afterwards, he was not allowed return. He also hyper-extended his knee in the process.
Hannay said: “He suffered a head knock earlier in the year, and with that in the back of our minds, our medical staff do a fantastic job, they were extra cautious with Wade.
“He’s actually feeling really good. We’ll continue to take every precaution and do what’s necessary to get Wade right and get him back out there.
“I don’t know what the process was in the sheds. All I know is we wanted to be extra cautious there. He also hurt his knee. We’ll be guided by our medical staff [for next week].”
Cronulla were always a big chance of an upset with so much star talent on the sidelines for Penrith.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was never going to risk so many of his stars, especially his son and To’o who were busted up during the Origin blowout. He said they had planned at the start of the pre-season to give any potential representative players a rest from the Cronulla game.
Penrith were clunky in the first half as they had no answers to the spirited Sharks.
Api Koroisau backed up, as did Blues teammate Liam Martin, with the hooker placed on report twice, including one for tripping Johnson.
They fought back well with Matt Burton scoring a double and setting up another.
Cleary quipped: “We won the second half 18-1, so I guess we can take that momentum into next week [against the Roosters].”
As for Kikau coming from the field, Cleary said: “He’s got a bit of a leg injury, I’m not too sure how bad it is.”
Ronaldo Mulitalo was sent downfield by former Panther Matt Moylan before he threw a flat pass back in-field for his five-eighth, who galloped 55m to score the opener. Moylan dived five metres out from the line in the hope he would not be collared by fullback Dylan Edwards.
A Johnson kick was collected by Jennings before Briton Nikora grabbed the ball out of his hands and threw it overarm for Johnson to score the second.
Then Mulitalo finished a beautiful Cronulla try that spanned the entire width of the field to make it 18-0 at half-time.
Penrith eventually clicked into gear and had their chances. They thought they had a try through Kikau, but replays showed he had promoted the ball after being tackled.
A Koroisau grubber for Charlie Staines was knocked dead by Mulitalo, only for the Sharks to wrongfully be awarded a 20m restart. Then a Kikau pass for a Jennings try sailed forward.