Indian Railways & ONGC win big; PSB edges out BPCL

Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) warmed up for its title defence with an authoritative 6-2 win over Bengaluru HA in a Pool 'A' match of the 91st MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup.

Railways’ Ranjan Aiyappa ( extreme left) scored two goals and Ajmer Singh (right) scored one goal against Bengaluru Hockey Association in the Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament in Chennai on Friday.   -  V. Ganesan

Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) warmed up for its title defence with an authoritative 6-2 win over Bengaluru HA in a Pool 'A' match of the 91st MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup All-India hockey tournament at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here on Friday.

In a similar fashion, former champion ONGC trounced Hockey Odisha 7-1 in a Pool 'B' contest, augmented by a hat-trick by former International Diwakar Ram.

However, the last match of the day wasn't one-sided. Punjab & Sind Bank (PSB) edged out BPCL in an evenly contested Pool 'A' tie, through a solitary goal by Santa Singh.

In the match against Bengaluru HA, the defending champion hardly put a foot wrong. There was a certain fluidity and cohesion in most of Railways' moves. Most importantly, the team looked fit.

Ajmer Singh opened the account for Railways with a stirring run from the left side of the goal-line. With the defender stopping the chase thinking the ball was out, Ajmer made the most of the opportunity with a neat push. Drag-flick specialist V. R. Raghunath equalised with a perfect shot off a penalty corner that struck the top of the roof. From there on, it was a Railways show.

Comprising mostly of youngsters, with veterans Vikram Kanth, V.S. Vinaya and Raghunath for company, Bengaluru HA forwards just appeared clueless at the striking circle.

If the half-time score (2-1 in favour of Railways) gave an indication that it would be close contest, one was way off the mark. Railways toyed with Bengaluru HA defence, with Ranjan Aiyappa scoring a brace. The concern for Railways head coach C.R. Kumar would be the penalty corners — it gave away seven today.

On a high after a wonderful come-from-behind draw with Army XI the other day, Hockey Odisha went down without a fight to ONGC, conceding seven goals.

ONGC never took its foot off the pedal after leading 2-1 at half-time. It pushed hard from both the flanks, giving the young Odisha team a lesson that it would never forget in a hurry.

In terms of strategy, tactics and intensity, the contest between PSB and BPCL took the cake. Both the teams played their hearts out, and strove equally hard to outwit each other. There were several sliding deflections, good saves by both the goalkeepers, and fierce strikes at the goal.

The results:

Pool A: RSPB 6 (Ajmer Singh 4, Raju Paul 32, Ranjan Aiyappa 49 & 62, Manpreet Singh Chahal 56, Kunjan Topno 59) bt Bengaluru HA 2 (V.R. Raghunath 18, K.A. Nilesh 68); PSB 1 (Santa Singh 65) bt BPCL 0; Pool B: ONGC 7 (Diwakar Ram 7, 9, 60, Machaiah 38, Nilam Xess 56 & 70+, Jagwant Singh 69) bt Hockey Odisha 1 (Cyril Lugun 4).