If Zone A witnessed defensively resolute teams dominating with the likes of Gujarat Fortunegiants, Puneri Paltan and Haryana Steelers qualifying for the playoffs, Zone B can be said to have been the exact opposite. All three playoff-bound teams from Zone B – Bengal Warriors, Patna Pirates and U.P. Yoddha – made it beyond the league stage on the strength of a deadly attack force as opposed to a solid defence. Bengal eventually edged Patna to qualify as zone toppers, while U.P. finished third after seeing off late challenges from the three southern teams in the zone. Here’s a comprehensive look at how the sides from Zone B made it to the playoffs.
Bengal Warriors finished above Patna Pirates at the top of the zone to the surprise of many. The Warriors lost the fewest games in their zone (5) and were involved in the maximum number of ties in the league (6). They picked up respectable results in their home leg unlike most teams having registered two wins, two ties and two losses in Kolkata. Another reason why they topped the zone is because they remained unbeaten in their three fixtures against reigning champions Patna, winning once and playing out two ties. Maninder Singh has been their leading raider in offence and is complemented well by Jang Kun Lee and Deepak Narwal in offence. Skipper Surjeet Singh and Ran Singh have been their main leaders in defence, while the likes of Bhupender Singh and Vinod Kumar have had a good impact coming off the bench.
Biggest Victory: 40-20 vs U.P. Yoddha
Top raider: Maninder Singh (172 raid points)
Top defender: Surjeet Singh (73 tackle points)
The defending champions made a strong start to the campaign as they blitzed away most of the opposition that came their way. Dubki King Pardeep Narwal took some time to getting used to for opponent defenders and still remains the greatest threat as well as most potent raider in the league. Supported well by Monu Goyat, Patna’s attack fires on all cylinders more often than not, however, it’s their frail defence that’ll need to rise to the challenge heading into the playoffs. Of all the Zone B teams, they enjoyed the best home leg with four wins, a tie and a loss. Worryingly though for Patna fans, their team’s form has been on the wane of late with no wins from their last four matches. They will need their big players to stand up and be counted as well as Jaideep and Vishal Mane to lead from the front in defence if they’re to rise above their recent slump when they take the mat in the playoffs.
Biggest Victory: 47-21 vs Jaipur Pink Panthers
Top raider: Pardeep Narwal (274 raid points)
Top defender: Jaideep (54 tackle points)
The only new-comer to qualify for the playoffs in Zone B, U.P. will have to put their best foot forward having endured an inconsistent campaign so far. They experienced the worst home leg amongst the three qualified teams from the zone with a win, a tie and four losses in Lucknow. Their star raiding duo of captain Nitin Tomar and Rishank Devadiga have carried the side on their shoulders for much of the season. Surender Singh has also contributed in offence, however, it’s their defence that needs to prove their mettle in the playoffs. Both Nitesh Kumar and Jeeva Kumar – who has the most super tackles (7) so far – will need to organize the defence and supplement their strong attack for a positive outcome in the playoffs.
Biggest Victory: 45-16 vs Dabang Delhi K.C.
Top raider: Nitin Tomar (160 raid points)
Top defender: Nitesh Kumar (46 tackle points)