THE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS Patna Pirates pulled off a breathtaking last-minute revival to steal a victory from under the nose of Telugu Titans, who after leading most of the time ended up losing their first home match of the season by a touch-and-go 33-35 margin.
After a cautious start to the game, the defending champions took the initual raid by trapping Vinoth Kumar and a successful raid from Rajesh Mondal. But Telugu Titans came back by trapping Pardeep Narwal and a good run fro Sukesh Hegde. 2-2 after 5 minutes.
Rajesh ondal struck again for the Pirates, then Pardeep Narwal ran a double-touch raid to give Patna the lead again. But Rahul Chaudhari and Vinoth Kumar got Telugu Titans back into the game with successful raids and the score was now 4-5.
This is when Pardeep Narwal went raiding, and ventured deep enough for Titans defender Jasmer Singh Gulia to fancy a tackle, aided by a teammate. Pardeep was knocked over but managed to get his foot over the line before falling out of the lobby. Patna were up 4-7.
But the famed Titans attack had an answer ready. Rahul Chaudhari got in deep, got taken on by two defenders and found himself under a pile, but he managed to drag his body half a foot and get a finger over the centre line. And then Sandeep Narwal's twisting form slipped past the grasp of two Patna defenders. Suddenly, 12 minutes in, the game was 8-8.
Pardeep of Patna came raiding and two Titans defenders ponced on him. But Pardeep made it through it. Patna regained the lead but this is where the game changed, with repeated successful raids from Rahul Chaudhari.
After two one-touch raids from Rahul, Pardeep Narwal also fell to a timely tackle from Vinoth Kumar. Then Rahul got a two-pointer. This left only one Pirate on the mat: Rajesh Mondal. He went raiding, and Sandeep Narwal got hold of his foot. The all-out was complete and 17 minutes in, Telugu Titans had built a convincing lead of 16-11.
Surjeet Singh got two successful raids for Patna but the Titans kept building their lead all the way into the second half. Surjeet Singh and Pardeep Narwal was trapped twice and Sandeep Narwal got Sandeep Narwal got a touch. The lead built up to 21-13 before Patna managed to swing the momentum of the game.
Vinoth Kumar was trapped. Kuldeep Singh ran two successful raids. Then Rahul Chaudhari was caught and Pardeep Narwal got a touch. Once the Patna defenders got Sandeep Narwal, it was clear that the fight wasn't going to be as one-sided as it seemed. 31 minutes in it was 24-21 in favour of Telugu Titans.
But the home team took back the reigns of the match. Vinoth Kumar got two out. Then Surjeet Singh was caught. Patna were once again down to 1 man and Rahul Chaudhari finished the job. It was 30-21 in 33 minutes.
But the defending champions still had a lot of fight left in them. Pardeep Narwal got back to back successful raids, while Sukesh Hegde was trapped. Vinoth Kumar went raiding and suffered an unfortunate knee injury in the middle of it. And all of a sudden, it was Telugu Titans who were reduced to one man on the mat. Rahul Chaudhari went in, Patna defenders allowed him the bonus, then tackled him. 37 minutes in, the Titans's lead was dwindling at 33-31.
And this is where last-minute nerves kicked in. Rajesh Mondal got tackled a bit too early and he easily managed to get half his body over the centre line. And then Rajesh Mondal managed to get two touches. Suddenly the face of the game had changed. It was the Patna Pirates who were leading 33-34 now, with barely a minute in hand.
Rahul Chaudhari went in for what would be a make-or-break raid for the home team. But he ended up held and thrown right down on the mat. And the match was over. The Titans had lost, and defending champions Patna Pirates had earned their third straight win in as many games. The final score was 33-35.
It was a night of the raiders with both teams losing significant points due to their defenders letting their men slip away; but it's the Titans who need to be worried more about their defence. But in the end, in what was an evenly fought game, it was the cool nerves of the last minutes once again that let Patna seal this win. And now with 15 points from 3 games, they are second on the league table, and they have played 2 games less than toppers Puneri Paltan (19 points from 5 matches). They have not only built on last season's success but also made it clear that the Pirates are the hot favourites to steal the title this time as well.