New Delhi, Sep 14: Puneri Paltan thrashed hosts Haryana Steelers 38-21 while Tamil Thalaivas edged past U.P. Yoddha 34-33 in the inter-zone league matches at the Motilal Nehru School of Sports in Sonepat on Wednesday (September 13).
In the first game of the night, Lucknow's Nitin Tomar notched up a game-high 14 points but Ajay Thakur, who picked up eight points, was the real star of the show since it was his super raid in the closing seconds of the match that made the difference.
Lucknow made a rapid start to the match by registering the first All-Out of the match on Chennai in the fourth minute to take a 9-1 lead. The Thalaivas returned to the mat with a bit more sense of purpose and made the score 13-8 in the 13th minute after a super raid by K. Prapanjan.
Both teams continued to score freely as the opening period neared its conclusion. Tomar and Rishank Devadiga were Lucknow's main threat in attack, while Thakur and Prapanjan were Chennai's protagonists in offence. The half ended with the score 18-12 in favour of Lucknow but the southerners could take heart from the fact that they had reduced the Yoddha to just two men.
Chennai started the second period better than they did the first by enforcing an All-Out on Lucknow in 22nd minute to cut the lead down to 20-16. Lucknow skipper Tomar though kept troubling Chennai's defence and brought up his Super 10 just two minutes later.
Lucknow and Chennai kept trading blows as the half progressed with the game finely poised at 23-20 heading into the final 10 minutes of the encounter. However, the Yoddha defence, especially, Jeeva Kumar and Nitesh Kumar - who picked up a High 5 - raised their game and made some crunch tackles at crucial junctures to momentarily thwart Chennai's charge.
Prapanjan though altered the course of the game yet again with four minutes on the clock, thanks to a two-point raid that heralded in a second All-Out on Lucknow soon after to give Chennai a 29-28 lead for the first time in the game.
Lucknow weren't behind for too long as Tomar pulled off a brilliant super raid moments later to turn the game in favour of his side. Thakur pulled one back for Chennai to make it a one-point game with a minute left to play. His next raid for Chennai was even better and effectively clinched the game for his team after a three-point super raid did the damage and handed the Thalaivas enough breathing space for their second win of the season.
Puneri Paltan thrash Haryana Steelers:
Leading from the front, Deepak Hooda starred for Puneri Paltan to emerge as a top raider of the match with 13 points as Haryana's Deepak Dahiya's 11 raid points went in vain.
Pune's a mammoth 16-point win took them to third spot in the points table in Zone B. Haryana, on the other hand, were still placed at the second position in Zone B.
Captain Deepak Hooda was the star as he picked up his first Super 10 of the season to end with 13 points. He was aided brilliantly by Sandeep Narwal (8 points). Deepak Kumar Dahiya's 11 points bore no fruit as the hosts suffered a 38-22 defeat.
A couple of toe touches set the score ticking for both the teams before Puneri Paltan unleashed their inner beast to rise from the ashes of their last-match defeat.
From the fifth minute onwards, a series of do-or-die raids started with Pune not giving Haryana any room to score for almost 8 minutes. With Haryana's defence failing miserably and Pune going all out, the home team crashed to their first All-Out of the match in the 9th minute to give Pune an 11-1 lead.
Until the 15th minute, Haryana had no tackle points to their name but arguably the best defensive unit in the league came back strongly to pull off two super tackles within two minutes to reduce the gap. Despite that, the home team entered the breather trailing 6-18.
Haryana started the second half with intent with plans of sticking to their defensive prowess and attacking only in the do-or-die raids. This led to their inflicting two super tackles on Pune in the first five minutes of the half to narrow the gap to 8 points.
However, Hooda was in no mood to allow Haryana an effective comeback as he pulled off two consecutive two-point raids in do-or-die situations to put the home team into deeper waters.
Haryana soon succumbed to their second All-Out of the match in the 37th minute and appeared to have lost their steam as the scoreline read 31-19 in Pune's favour. Even after picking up his first Super 10 of the season, Hooda continued his annihilation and initiated a super raid in the dying seconds of the match to help his team win comfortably 38-22.