Saturday’s first game was expected to be a close contest as two of the most aggressive units in U.P. Yoddha and Puneri Paltan met at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai. And the match indeed lived up to the hype as it witnessed the lead exchange hands repeatedly late in the game before Pune managed to clinch the encounter 34-33 on the back of a successful raid under pressure by Suresh Kumar. Captain Deepak Hooda did the damage earlier by returning three super raids and scoring a game changing 17 points for his team.
Puneri Paltan played on the defensive once again but they were matched by the Yoddha every step of the way. It looked like the match will belong to the defenders early on till Hooda bagged his first super raid in the third attempt itself to put his team 5-2 ahead. But Rishank Devadiga equalised with a super raid of his own in the very next attempt. It was end-to-end action from there as another Hooda super raid was met by a U.P. Yoddha super tackle on Sandeep Narwal.
In spite of Hooda’s fiery raids, U.P.’s Sagar Krishna managed to reach his High 5 by taking down the other Pune raiders and keeping his side level at 12-12 till the final minutes of the first half. However, Krishna’s strong effort was undone by the Paltan soon as they inflicted an All-Out on U.P. Yoddha just seconds before half-time to go 18-12 ahead. U.P. managed to salvage a couple of points in the dying seconds to reach half-time trailing Pune 14- 18.
Pune extended their lead early in the second half as Hooda continued super raiding and took his side 22-14 up in the second minute, reaching his Super 10 in the process. Pune kept running away with the game on the back of their captain’s raids and inflicted another All-Out five minutes into the second half to gain a huge 28-17 advantage.
Nitin Tomar, though, came to the party late in the contest to script the first Puneri Paltan All-Out in the 13th minute to ensure that U.P. were still in the game and gaining in confidence. The Yoddha equalised with 3 minutes left on the clock at 32-32 and the Devadiga-Tomar combination looked threatening. But the strong Pune defence kept U.P. from scoring, and a late single point raid by Kumar gave them a narrow 34-33 win.
Check out our snapshots from this match here.