A DEVASTATING SERIES of super-raids from Ajay Thakur saw Puneri Paltan bulldoze their local rivals U Mumba, and clinching their very first Maharashtra Derby victory in the history of Pro Kabaddi by an epic margin of 41-19.
The match began in an explosive fashion, with Ajay Thakur and Manjeet Chillar leading the charge as Puneri Paltan planted their flag on the game early on.
U Mumba's Rishank Devadiga got a successful raid before getting caught, while Puneri Paltan's Ajay Thakur slotted in two quiet raids. He came in for his do-or-die third raid, and as 3 defenders launched themselves on him, he fell on the lobby and twisted his body to get a hand on the centre line. It was the first super raid of the match and Pune took a 5-1 lead.
With few men left on the mat, Anup Kumar tried to mitigate the threat of an all-out with two successful raids. But it wasn't enough and in the end, he got caught. Thanks to the all-out points, Pune went 10-4 up.
As both sides loaded their bases, Anup Kumar got tackled again. And Ajay Thakur ran two more empty raids, setting up a second do-or-die raid. He went in, once again he was attacked by 3 defenders in tandem, but as his tall torso fell back on the mat, he found the centre line well within touching distance. Another super raid, and the Paltans went up 14-4.
It was now Manjeet Chillar's turn to swing the axe. He ran a raid, got a brilliant early touch, and when the remaining two defenders launched on him, he got straight out of their hold. 3 touches, and U Mumba were all out once again. Suddenly, within 10 minutes, Puneri Paltan were up 19-4, a whopping 15 point lead.
Mumbai tried hard to get back. When Ajay Thakur came in for his third do-or-die raid, Jeeva managed to get him with a dash. Vikash Kumar got a successful raid for them. But then Ajay Thakur came fishing again, and managed to get a third super raid going. The score was now 25-7.
But the champions of PKL 2 doggedly pursued a comeback. Anup Kumar and Rishank Devadiga ran successful raids to end the first half at 26-10.
In the second half, a successful raid from Pune's Nitin Kumar and a trapping of Mumbai's Vikash Kumar saw Mumbai close to another all-out. But they managed to pull off a super tackle, catching Deepak Niwas Hooda. 28-12.
Anup Kumar got a raid point. Then Mumbai caught Ajay Thakur. But then Rishank and Rakesh Kumar got trapped, and Mumbai's comeback didn't seem to be working out. 31-14.
But captain Anup Kumar didn't give up. He ran a super raid, and followed up with another successful raid before getting tackled in the next one. 33-18 with 6 minutes left, it wasn't looking good for U Mumba.
And the base was close to empty again. Vikash Kumar got trapped by Pune defenders, and Ajay Thakur shimmied in for a simple raid to complete the all-out. 38-18 to Pune, and barely 4 minutes left on the clock.
Sitting on a comfortable lead, Pune could now just see out the game and a few empty raids followed. Pushed to a corner, U Mumba defence had to take a few risks but they failed to trap Deepak and Joginer. And in the end, it was a comfortable win for Puneri Paltan by a massive 22 point margin; the game ended at 41-19.
It was a destructive spell from raider Ajay Thakur and a great all-round performance along with leadership from Manjeet Chillar that sealed the deal for Puneri Paltan. Their campaign is now off to a dream start with 2 back to back wins.
U Mumba, who got away with a narrow win over Jaipur, have for the first time had their lack of defensive co-ordination exposed, and this loss should be an eye-opener for them. They have a couple of days in hand before they play their next match in Jaipur against Patna Pirates, so this should spark some introspection and a re-visit to the old drawing boards if they are to put up a proper fight against the defending champions.