After two losses in two games against Gujarat Fortunegiants, Puneri Paltan on Friday looked determined to turn the tides against their opponents from the west. However, the debutants once again showed why they are considered the side to beat this season as they emerged victors with a 23-22 scoreline at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune.

Gujarat’s Sunil Kumar and Pune’s Rinku Narwal both finished with 7 points in a clash dominated by the defenders. Gujarat finished at the top of Zone A with this win and will now face Zone B toppers Bengal Warriors in Qualifier 1, the winner of which will reach the final.

Both teams held nothing back in the early stages with the Gujarat raiders and the Pune tacklers doing the job for their respective teams. The lead kept changing hands and the teams stayed tied at 8-8 in the 12th minute. The Puneri Paltan raiders played slowly and made sure Gujarat’s formidable defensive line did not get an opportunity to settle down. However, Gujarat kept scoring through their raiders, especially Sachin, to keep the game tied at 11-11 going into half time.

The second half saw the Gujarat defence come to life soon giving their side a 13-11 lead. With neither defence ready to blink, it took a special effort from Sachin once again to increase his side’s slender lead to 16-13 with more than 10 minutes left on the clock.

Facing an uphill task, Pune brought on their do-or-die specialist in substitute Suresh Kumar who helped the side equalise at 16-16. Captain Deepak Hooda took charge from there to pull the lead back in favour of the home team. Pune’s star of the night Rinku Narwal also reached his High 5, making sure Gujarat’s raiders found it difficult to make any inroads of their own.

Gujarat Fortunegiants though fought till the closing seconds to super tackle Hooda and then score through substitute Mahendra Rajput to seal the top spot for themselves with a 23-22 victory in the last league game of the season.

Check out our snapshots from this match here.