Rhinos nail Waveriders to emerge champions

Rhinos nail Waveriders to emerge champions

Raghunath dazzles as Wizards finish third

Rhinos nail Waveriders to emerge champions

Riding on an exhilarating wave of popular support, Ranchi Rhinos emerged champions in the inaugural Hockey India League with a 2-1 win over Delhi Waveriders in the final here on Sunday.

In front of their huge army of supporters who filled the Astroturf Stadium, Rhinos came from behind to dash the hopes of Delhi, the dominant team in the league all along.

Waveriders powered ahead in the 25th minute through a goal from Simon Child.

Child got possession after Matt Gohdes had done the spade work on the right flank and the New Zealander blasted the ball home to the right corner of the goal. Delhi maintained the advantage till the 55th minute when Rhinos drew level through a penalty corner. Austin Smith slammed in the short corner after Ashley Jackson sold a brilliant dummy to fool the Waveriders’ defenders.
Attacking relentlessly, the Rhinos forced another penalty corner in the 64th minute. Jackson fired in the short corner but it was blocked by the goalkeeper. Manpreet Singh, lurking nearby, hit the rebound home for the winner.

Raghu shines

Earlier, V R Raghunath led from the front, scoring four goals including a hat-trick, to help Uttar Pradesh Wizards claim the third spot in the inaugural Hockey India League with a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Jaypee Punjab Warriors in extra-time, here on Sunday.

After the teams were level 3-3 at the end of the regulation time, Raghunath fired in the golden goal off a penalty corner to complete a memorable match.

The star defender single-handedly spoiled Punjab’s party with sheer individual brilliance as he converted three earlier penalty corners to ensure Wizards remained in the contest after they were down 0-3 till the 42nd minute.

Warriors, however, were the better side on display, at least in the opening half, as they controlled the proceedings from the onset at the floodlit Astroturf Hockey Stadium.

Mark Knowles (4th minute), S V Sunil (8th) and Ranjit Singh (39th) scored for Warriors to hand them a commanding lead. But riding on skipper Raghunath’s (42nd, 62nd, 64th, 85th) precise penalty corner conversions, Wizards made a strong comeback to finish on the podium.  However, it was Warriors who dominated the early exchanges and broke the deadlock just four minutes into the game through Knowles.

Warriors doubled their lead four minutes later through a diving Sunil who deflected in from a penalty corner. Ranjit then made the scoreline 3-0 in favour of the Warriors through a field effort.
Raghunath pulled one back for Wizards in the 42nd minute from a penalty corner.

Trailing 1-3, Wizards pressed hard for goals thereafter and it took two brilliant corner conversions from Raghunath in a span of three minutes to draw parity and take match into extra time.

In the two extra-time periods of seven-and-a-half minutes each both the teams failed to break the deadlock till the final minute. Wizards earned a penalty corner and an accurate Raghunath made no mistake to sign off a great day for him as well as his team.