Case of so near yet so far for the Jaypee Punjab Warriors
What more Jaypee Punjab Warriors could have done to break their jinx of winning the Hero Hockey India League? It was a case of so near and yet so far for the Barry Dancer-coached Punjab outfit as they were denied a shot at glory by Ranchi Rays in an exhilarating penalty shootout at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi.
Missed chances cost the Punjab Warriors
Unlike the first two editions, the Warriors looked the team to beat in the tournament despite their twin defeats at the hands of Ranchi Rays in the league phase. The Warriors’ two wins over reigning champions Delhi Waveriders in the league phase was a fair indicator of the kind of form they were in. And the script seemed to go their way when the Warriors took the lead through Kieren Govers before the Rays hit back. The Punjab side again regained the lead only to surrender it almost immediately. Clearly, the Warriors had the match in their grasp, and when a team twice takes a lead in a final match only to surrender, probably they did not deserve to win the trophy.
Of course, the Warriors suffered a psychological blow when their inspirational skipper Jamie Dwyer had to give the final game a miss owing to an injury, but that cannot be used as an alibi for the defeat. The Warriors have so much flair in their side. The likes of Jaap Stockmann, SV Sunil, Dharamvir Singh, Rob Hammond, Chris Ciriello, Kieren Govers and Augustin Mazzilli can instill fear factor in the minds of the opposition. One thought that the moment the Warriors allowed Barry Middleton to equalize for the Rays, the match went out of their grasp. In fact, the Rays appeared more pumped up in the shootout even as their players held their nerves to come through the shootout with aplomb.
As they say in sport, there is always a next time and Jaypee Punjab Warriors would hopefully takes the positives from their runners-up finish and emerge even stronger in the 2016 edition.