Match number forty-three saw U Mumba take on Puneri Paltan in the Maharashtra derby. The last time these two sides met, Pune unleashed carnage on the likes of Anup Kumar and Rishank Devadiga, beating them by a massive twenty-two points.
Pune were missing their captain, Manjeet Chhillar, who sat this one out with a shoulder injury. Anup Kumar opened the scoring for U Mumba in the very first raid of the match. He followed it up by taking out Somvir with his vintage toe touch.
At the other end, Pune’s defence managed to keep Rishank quiet. Mumbai’s star raider was tackled on multiple occasions by the Paltan defence. The score read 4-4 after seven minutes. Anup who often comes to life in the second half, continued to pick up quick raid points early on.
Both sides were ineffective in the do or die raids. Rishank finally came to life with a splendid do or die raid. At a crucial juncture in the first half, he powered his way, taking out two defenders. U Mumba were leading 9-7 after fourteen minutes.
Anup then took out Deepak Hooda with a deft hand touch. Pune were now down to two men. The Mumbai captain followed it up with another perfectly timed toe touch. Ajay Thakur couldn’t deny the inevitable as Mumba inflicted the first all out of the match.
But Thakur had the last laugh, executing a stunning super raid in the dying moments. Felt as if he was reliving his stellar raid, the last time, the two sides met.
HT- U Mumba 15- Puneri Paltan 13
U Mumba began the second half with just four men and Sonu Narwal reduced them to three in the first raid soon. Jeeva Kumar made a poor advance tackle and suddenly Mumbai were staring at an all-out. They suffered their first one three minutes later.
Pune were now leading 19-17. The Paltan were in the zone. They finally managed to tackle Anup Kumar in his first raid of the second half.
Rakesh Kumar who made sparse use of himself scored an immaculate hand touch on Hooda to reduce the deficit to just one. But Ajay Thakur came back to haunt the Mumbai defence once again. He took out two defenders to extend their narrow lead.
Joginder Narwal was shown a yellow card and Rishank then scored from a do or die raid to reduce the deficit to one. Ajay Thakur was then tackled as the scores were now level at 23 each with seven minutes remaining. Pune were down to three men.
Captain, Anup Kumar took out his counterpart, Joginder to reduce Pune to two. Anup sensed fear and dragged Deepak Hooda along to his half. It left Sonu Narwal alone on the mat. With four minutes remaining, U Mumba inflicted a crucial all out. They were now leading 30-27.
The stakes were high and the final minutes were frantic. Pune, however, weren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. But it wasn’t to be as Mumba’s defence did the job and held on for a memorable victory.
FT- U Mumba 34 - Puneri Paltan 31Published 20 Jul 2016, 21:28 IST