The second Inter Zone Challenge Week came to an end on Sunday at Sonepat with two surprising winners on Sunday. Puneri Paltan were the clear favourites as they faced Bengaluru Bulls who were entering the match after six straight losses. However, Rohit Kumar’s men put up a solid all-round display to turn the tables on Deepak Hooda’s men and win 24-20. 

Rohit Kumar was relieved after the much sought-after victory and stated: “Our car needed a push because the engine was jammed. The defence and the offence didn’t commit many mistakes. After a month, the team has performed well and in the upcoming matches also, we will play smartly. It feels really great to win.” 

Known for losing the plot in the dying minutes, the Bulls on Sunday were at last able to overcome their past mistakes and put up a solid defensive show. “We planned that we will not give away points. We will focus on the do-or-die raids. Today we wanted the defence to perform well and exactly that’s what happened because the raiders of our team didn’t get more points. For me, if a team’s defence plays well then the team wins,” Rohit Kumar added. 

The other match of the day saw the upbeat home team Haryana Steelers taking on the shaky Telugu Titans. However, the Titans completely nullified the efforts of both of Haryana’s departments to forge a resounding 18-point victory (37-19), much to the disappointment of home fans at Sonepat. 

Steelers captain Surender Nada attributed their first defeat on home turf to the failure of the defence. With one of the most potent defences in the league, it was just not their day to shine. Nada summed it up perfectly well. “The defence made mistakes from the beginning. After the first half, there was only one tackle point. We lost because the defence couldn’t perform. If the defence doesn’t perform then the raiders also lose their confidence. So that was the problem,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Telugu Titans coach Naveen Kumar and captain Rahul Chaudhari looked delighted. They entered the match with a solid strategy in their head and were pleased to see the defence click. Chaudhari explained: “Our coach has given us a lot of practice in defence and has given a lot of practice to me personally as well. We had to play like a team today. If any defender gets the opposition raider, the entire defence will try to tackle him. So this is the reason we won and I am happy with the performance today.” 

On his rivalry with Patna Pirates’ Pardeep Narwal, who has again been in great form this season, Chaudhari said: “Points don’t matter to me. I play for my team and I go and get points for the team. I do not compete with anyone. It really doesn’t matter to me that Pardeep is getting 20 or 25 points in a match. I only keep in mind that I have to perform for my team and that is how I motivate myself.”