A strong show in the first half allowed U.P. Yoddha to keep a buffer in the closing stages and seal a tense match 37-32 against Tamil Thalaivas at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai on Monday. U.P. Yoddha had led the proceedings comprehensively in the first half which allowed them to steer the course of the game.
After a slow start, it was the Yoddha who opened the account after Nitesh Kumar kept Ajay Thakur's Frog Jump in check, upsetting his momentum as he leaped. Veteran Manjeet Chhillar's exit at the hands of raider Shrikant Jadhav shortly after made sure U.P. got into the drive.
The metronomic scoring continued after Surjeet Singh, a star for the Thalaivas in the opening match, was brought down by Narender moments later with the Thalaivas firmly on the backfoot.
Around midway through the first half, U.P. inflicted Thalaivas' first All-Out of the night, with the score reading 10-0 in their favour.
Once they reassembled, the Thalaivas started their comeback, scoring their first point in the 13th minute, a solid block stopping Prashanth Kumar Rai in his tracks.
But the Yoddha kept a potential counter-attack in check as Shrikant Jadhav executed a clean kick to get Thakur out. Prashanth Kumar Rai then performed a clean Dubki to get two raid points and at the halfway mark the score read 4-18 after Thakur got grappled by the powerful Jeeva Kumar.
In the second half, a second All-Out soon came the Thalaivas way with a score of 5-23. At the reset, the Yoddha had lost none of their incisiveness, forcing Thalaivas to up their game.
Thalaivas fight back
It’s here when Athul MS stepped up with his six-straight point-bearing raids. The youngster got his eye in as he got his side in double figures. Manjeet Chhillar's decisive lunge at the dangerous Rishank Devadiga and Ajay Thakur's on-the-edge two-point raid got Yoddha All-Out for the first time. The deficit had been reduced to 8 points with a 19-27 score line with less than 10 minutes remaining.
With points in their hand, Yoddha squeezed in a few more in the final minutes, although this time both sides were on an even keel. The deficit got down to 7 points after Ajay Thakur typically made the right moves in the closing stages. The Yoddha were soon All-Out for the second time, the scoreline now 30-34 in U.P's favour.
But after they all got on to the mat again, Narender blocked Ajay Thakur's charge, holding on to the captain's trunk and all but ended Thalaivas' hopes of taking it to the dying moments.
Narender emerged as the top defender for his team with four tackle points while Ajay Thakur left the game with a Super 10, his 12 points and Athul MS’ seven getting the Thalaivas close in an enthralling match.