Haryana Steelers produced one of the best defensive performances in the current season of the PKL enroute to securing a 36-29 win against the UP Yoddha in Lucknow. Vikas Kandola (9), with nine touch points, and Surender Nada’s seven tackle points proved to be too big a challenge for the home side.
Raiders fail to impress as defenders come out on top
UP Yoddha won the toss and asked Haryana Steelers to raid first. Former skipper of the Puneri Paltan Wazir Singh opened the tally for Haryana while UP’s skipper Nitin Tomar got the first point with a fantastic dive and Rishank Devadiga doubled the tally with his first raid point of the game. Tomar’s fantastic presence of mind sent Wazir out of the game and UP’s defence added one more point to take an early 4-1 lead. Rakesh Singh’s dash, which resulted in a Super Tackle, ensured that UP’s skipper was out of the game for some time and helped his side reduced the deficit to just one point. Rohit Kumar’s dash gave one lead point to UP before Nada tackle on Mahesh Goud levelled the score at 5-5. Ashish Chhokar and Devadiga took a point apiece to keep the game at even stevens. It was then the Steelers’ turn to put some pressure on the hosts as Vikas Kandola grabbed a point after Nitin Tomar had stepped into the lobby without a touch.
But the hosts were not ready to lose another game at home with a meek performance and Sagar Krishna’s Super Tackle-block added two points for UP Yoddha. Devadiga’s successful raid increased the score to 10-8. Wazir and Mahesh exchanged a raid point each as the Yoddha’s maintained a two point lead. Haryana faced a do or die raid after Devadiga had scored yet another point, but Wazir failed to match his counterparts’ exploits and handed the home side a four-point lead. Haryana knew that Devadiga was the key and a well planned defensive tactic sent the raider out of the game. Haryana then grabbed Tomar as well and with Kandola raiding successful, the Yoddha were reduced to just three men. But the hosts were in no mood to suffer a first half all-out and produced a brilliant Super Tackle to keep their lead intact with the scoreboard reading 15-12 at the end of the first half.
Kandola and Nada provide dream finish for the Steelers
After one round of empty raids from the both side, Kandola scored for Haryana at the start of the second half. Surender failed to score in do or die raid which awarded one point to Haryana. 15-14. Up’s Super tackle helped Devadiga to came back into the game as the score was 17-14. In the next raid, Devadiga failed to prove his comeback as he was again sent back by Nada and the score reached 17-15. Wazir Singh managed to get two touch point inflicting an all out on the Yoddha but the umpire ruled it out as the raider was accused of kicking the Yoddha defender which resulted in the home side being awarded a couple of points along with a revival. Ashish Chhokar earned the Steelers another point to take the score to 19-16. Hadi Tajik faked a touch and managed to earn his side two points by taking two defenders into the lobby. Not for the first time in the game, Ashish Chhokar was stopped by the three UP defenders on the mat as they managed yet another Super Tackle to extend their lead to 6 with the scoreboard reading 23-17. Time was running out for the Steelers as the deficit was getting higher but Haryana’s defence grabbed the UP skipper and sent him out of the game to stay in the game. UP Yoddha were awarded a technical point as Wazir took too much time in going in for a raid.
However, the raider made up for his mistake by earning two raid points and leaving the Yoddha with just one player on the mat. The lone surviving player Mahesh Goud was trapped by the Steelers’ defence who finally inflicted the first all-out of the game with the score at 25-23. UP Yoddha who came with their full set of players and sent Rishank for the raid but Nada’s ankle hold sent him out off the mat, completing his high 5, and reducing the deficit to just one point. Nitin Tomar scored a point through his raid while Surjeet failed to do so in the do or die raid as UP maintained a lead at 27-24.Mahesh and Wazir both failed to score points in their do or die raids, but it was the hosts who were in control of the game. Kandola proved to be the difference as he scored two points in successive raids to reduce the deficit to just one point. Devadiga finally was able to get the better of the exceptional Nada but with Kandola earning another point the scoreboard reflected the score of 29-28. With just three minutes left in the match, Mohit Chillar finally came to the fore and with a brilliant block on Devadiga not only levelled the score at 29-29 but put his side in the driving seat as well. With their captain, Nitin Tomar, falling prey to the defensive might of the Steelers, the hosts were looking
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