DABANG DELHI MANAGED to get their first win of the season thanks to a stellar all-round performance from Meraj Sheykh, who helped them rout Bengaluru Bulls convincingly by a margin of 32-24.
Although Bengaluru drew the first blood by trapping Kashiling Adake and Vinod Kumar getting a touch, Delhi quickly drew even with Selvamani getting a touch back and trapping Rohit Kumar. 2-2.
The Bulls took the fight to their opponents again, tackling Kashiling, getting Vinod back who got a tough, and then catching Delhi's swift raider Meraj Sheykh. 2-5.
Cornered early on, Delhi made a bold stand. Rohit and Vinod fell into their trap again while Selvamani and Meraj ran successful raids. Then Pawan Kumar got caught as well and suddenly there were only two Bulls on the mat. Meraj Sheykh went raiding and as a defender tried to get his leg he leaped over his crouching form to score another point. And defender Sachin Shingade finished the job by taking the last remaining Bull by his horns. Bengaluru were all-out, and Delhi were leading 11-5, 14 minutes in.
Bengaluru tried to make a slow but steady comeback. Rohit Kumar ran two successful raids while Selvamani got caught. It was 11-8 and the comeback ooked on but Delhi caught Rohit and Meraj got a point to make sure at half-time, Delhi were leading 13-9.
Points kept coming in ones and twos in the second half. Meraj for Delhi and Rohit for Bengaluru were doing their bit, while Kashiling and Vinod suffered early trappings. Bengaluru had brought the difference down to 2 but then Rohit Kumar got super-tackled by Meraj Sheykh and Delhi regained their lead, 17-13.
Bengaluru managed to trap Selvamani but suffered another setback when Sachin Shingade pulled a super-tackle on Yogesh Hooda. 29 minutes in, the scoreboard read 19-15, and despite low numbers on the mat the momentum was with Delhi.
Meraj pulled off his second super-tackle of the match on Pawan Kumar. Then Kashilong went in and got two touches, getting the lead up to 23-15, and re-loading the mat for Delhi in the process.
Nothing seemed to be going right for Bengaluru. Rohit Kumar got had to go out because of a third empty raid. But down to 3 on the mat, Mohit Chillar went charging at Kashiling Adake, getting a much-needed super-tackle. Yogesh Hooda followed it up with a successful raid. 24 minutes in, Delhi were still up 24-18.
Vinod Kumar got a bonus point for Bengaluru but Delhi replied with two successful raids from Meraj Sheykh and a brilliant tackle on Yogesh Hooda by Sachin Shinde. Once again, Bengaluru were down to 1 man: the leader Mohit Chillar standing helplessly. And he didn't look that good when he went raiding: got the onus point then ended up being tackled. Once again the Bulls were all-out, with the score 30-20 in Dabang Delhi's favour.
With barely 2 minutes remaining, it was a matter of seeing out the clock for Delhi. And Meraj Sheykh ate up the seconds with his raids. Desperate for a breakt-through, Rohit Kumar ran 3 successful raids. But it wasn't anywhere near enough. Delhi finished the game in style by Meraj successfully tackling him on the last raid of the game, finishing the match with a 32-24 flag-planting dominant victory.
This victory brought to an end a long winless streak for Dabang Delhi that carried on from the previous season, and may prove to be the turning point for their campaign. The individual talent is there in their squad but in the past games their abilities didn't seem to be translating into a cohesive team performance. Perhaps tonight's win, headlined by the bravado of Meraj Sheykh and Sachin Shingade, will help them get their morale back up and regain momentum to emerge as a semi-final contender in this season.