PKL 2018: Thalaivas stun Pirates; U Mumba, Paltan play out a thriller

Tamil Thalaivas started on the right foot in front of its home crowd before Puneri Paltan and U Mumba played out a thrilling tie.

Tamil Thalaivas successfully tackle Pardeep Narwal of Patna Pirate   -  R. Ragu

The Tamil Thalaivas stunned defending champion Patna Pirates in the opening match of the Pro Kabaddi League Season 6, defeating it's Zone B opponent 42-26 on Sunday. Ajay Thakur and Surjeet Singh picked up 21 points in attack, and Amit Hooda and Manjeet Chillar stood firm in defence as the Chennai-based team started on the right foot in front of home crowd here at the Nehru Indoor stadium.

As it happened

The Pirates’ defensive inefficiencies were exposed early on, as they scored only two tackle points in the match. Without enough support from his defenders, Pirates’ talismanic raider Pardeep Narwal was unable to inflict too much damage on the Thalaivas which managed to take him down four times.

“Our defense was the major problem today. The raider can become nervous when the defense isn't performing well. We can't expect Pardeep to do everything,” said Pirates coach Ram Mehar Singh.

Thalaivas could not have asked for a better start when it meted out an early all-out on the Pirates. Ahead of the match, captain Thakur banked on the experience of the likes of Manjeet Chillar to help his team. Chillar proved him right as he led a resolute defense from the left corner with Hooda on the right. With superb co-ordination, they forced three all-outs on the Pirates and won 11 tackle points.

Pardeep and the Pirates were chasing the game right from the start, never seeming to be able to catch up. For those who expected Pardeep to toy with the opponent, it turned out to be a huge let down. Last season’s top-scorer managed 11 points but wasn’t anywhere near his true capabilities. Young raider Manjeet, who scored 8 points, was the only silver lining for the Pirates, which needs to address its defensive woes.

This isn’t the same Thalaivas team that finished at the bottom of its zone last season, but a big victory against the defending champion in the opening match is sure to raise its spirits. “Surely such a win will boost our confidence a lot,” echoed Thakur.

A thrilling tie

In a stunning finish to the Maharashtra derby, Puneri Paltan stole the game from U Mumba’s hands in the final seconds of the match to force a tie. Both teams matched each other in almost every aspect as they settled the Zone A contest at 32-32.

It was a contest between two strong defences, despite Paltan’s Nitin Tomar and U Mumba’s Siddharth Desai impressing on the attacking front. Tomar's 15 raid points, and Desai 14, provided their teams with a much needed outlet in attack.

For the Chennai crowd that was fresh off a stunning victory for its home team, the second match was of a completely different hue.  

The two teams were neck-and-neck for the most part of the first half until U Mumba tackled a lone Girish Ernak and inflicted an all-out on the Paltans. Going into the break, U Mumba had a narrow lead of two points. The narrow lead stretched well into final minute of the second-half when it lead 32-30 before Paltan’s Monu scored a raid point to bring the deficit down to one.

Desai stepped into the Pune half hoping to secure the win for his side but captain Ernauk got hold of him and the rest of the men got right on top of the U Mumba raider to level the score with five seconds left. Monu went into the final raid but decided to play the clock down for a tie.

Both teams came into the tournament as defensive giants. And both captains ended up as the top defenders for their teams. U Mumba’s Fazal Atrachali and Paltan’s Ernak scored four tackle points each and organized their defenses effectively. Yet, Tomar and Desai were exceptional in amassing raid points with quick hand-touches and the rare dubki.

Although, he was able to give his team the edge for 39 minutes, it was Desai who conceded the final point that helped Paltan level the score. “I’m very disappointed with the result. We dominated throughout and they were chasing us for almost the whole game, but I made a mistake in the final moments which let my team down,” he said.