A FIESTY, LARGELY defence-primary battle unfolded between Puneri Paltan and Telugu Titans in the very first match of the Pro Kabaddi season 4, but marginally better raiding and a display of last-moment steely nerves from Manjeet Chillar saw Pune clinch a thrilling victory.
The match began with the first raid of the season coming from Telugu Titans captain, Rahul Chaudhari. But the first point of the season went to Puneri Paltan star raider Ajay Thakur. Pune got the next point too when they managed to net Rahul on his next raid, and the Titans captain sustained a shoulder injury during the tackle which he decided to play through.
Sukesh Hegde got trapped too which gave Pune a 3-0 lead. But the Telugu defenders managed to hold onto the ankle of Deepak Niwas Hooda. Rahul was back on the mat, and a comeback was on. Two successful raids from him and a great trapping of Manjeet Chillar and Deepak suddenly saw the Titans in the front 4-7, with Pune reduced to 2 men on the mat.
Ajay Thakur tried his best to avoid the all-out but it was by trapping him that the Titans accomplished the first all-out of the season, taking the tally up to 6-11. With 10 minutes up, the game's pace settled down.
Pune's Deepak was still struggling, as was Nitin Tomar; both got caught. The young Titans defenders showed their mettle, trapping Nitin Tomar. With most of the raiders out of the mat, the next few minutes saw a lot of empty raids and trappings, and the trend continued into the second half. The Titans pulle a super tackle on Manjeet and took their lead to 13-17.
But Pune kept chipping away at that lead with Manjeet Chillar taking over the action on the mat. Prapanjan was trapped, so was Sandeep Narwal, and suddenly Sonu Narwal chipped away at the last remaining Titan on the court, getting the all-out and taking Pune 20-18 up.
Pune kept building on this lead. Manjeet personally neutralised Rahul, Deepak and Sonu got a touch each. For Titans, Vinoth ran a successful rain and Jasmer trapped Deepak. It was 23-20 with 9 minutes to spare.
The game, by this time, had become a defensive stare-off. The scoring rates slowed down and the next few points came from tackles and ankle holds. Rahul once again got trapped, as did Nitin Tomar. And with 5:33 to spare, Pune were firmly in the lead 25-21.
In a timeout, the Titans converged for a strategic discussion and their coach told them not to take unnecessary risks to bounce back in the game and stick to the centre-mat. But they needed a raical charge to get back into the game from this point.
And Sandeep Narwal took the lead to get it done. He got a touch, then got a bonus point appeal from Pune turned down via TV umpire review. He got hold of Deepak Niwas again, and once Vinoth got a successful raid, the comeback was on: the scoreline read 25-24.
But there was one final twist left in the game and it came in the form of Manjeet Chillar. When Rahul Chaudhari came sniffing, he lead a super tackle effort. Then he caught hold of Vinoth Kumar. And just like that, the game was sealed. Puneri Paltan secured a competent start to their PKL 4 campaign with a 28-24 win over Telugu Titans.
A neck-to-neck game by all definitions, both teams had the same number of tackle points, but the superior raiding of the Paltans made the difference. A surprise result, considering Telugu Titans are known to be the most attacking team in the league. But if the opening game is anything to go by, this edition of PKL is going to be full of surprises.