Star Sports Pro Kabaddi: Patna Pirates light up the Pune leg
The Star Sports Pro Kabaddi caravan made its final stop of the group stage in the cultural capital of Maharashtra – Pune. With the home team, Puneri Paltan, already knocked out, the team coached by Ashok Shinde were playing for pride in front of their home fans.
Ahead of the leg, U Mumba, Telugu Titans and Bengaluru Bulls had sealed qualification for the semis, but the final playoff spot was yet to be decided. Defending champions Jaipur Pink Panthers and Patna Pirates were in contention for 4th place.
The Pune leg kicked off with the home team facing Dabang Delhi at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex and completing their second win of the tournament. Jitesh Joshi scored 10 points to nullify the threat of the league's best raider, Kashiling Adake as the Paltan won 33-28 to the delight of the home fans.
Bengal Warriors sprung another surprise on the day when they beat the reigning champions narrowly. The team led by Jang Kun Lee ended their season 2 campaign with a 39-38 win over Jaipur to the delight of Patna Pirates, who were counting on this result to stay in the tournament. In this high-scoring match, Rajesh Narwal, with 10 points, failed to carry his team over the line as Sunil Jaipal and Mahendra Rajput scored 12 and 11 points respectively to end their campaign on a positive note.
The only match on the second day of the Pune leg was a cracker as the Pune crowd witnessed the Maharashtra derby for the first time this season. League leaders U Mumba fielded a second string side to rest their main players ahead of the semis, but Iranian Fazel Atrachali ensured that they still won the match 39-34. At half-time the scores were tied at 13 each, but the visitors took the initiative in the second half to lead 39-24 with 2 minutes to go. Buoyed by a vociferous home crowd, the Paltan scored 10 unanswered points in the end, but still fell short as they suffered their first defeat at home.
The final dress rehearsal and virtual quarter-final
The match dubbed as the dress rehearsal of the final kicked things off on the third day of the leg. U Mumba were handed only their second loss of the campaign by the Telugu Titans. The all-conquering Mumbaikars were given a reality check as the Titans romped to a dominant 46-25 victory to end their group stage with a morale-boosting win. Patna Pirates kept their semi-final hopes after handing the home team, Puneri Paltan, their 10th loss of the campaign. Sandeep Narwal and Suresh Kumar starred for the Pirates as they set up a virtual quarter-final with Jaipur courtesy of a 38-21 win.
In the most-anticipated match of the Pune leg, the 5th placed team Patna Pirates displaced Jaipur Pink Panthers from 4th place in a 26-24 win. Despite the scoreline indicating a close match, it was anything but that as the Sandeep Narwal-led side led almost throughout the match. They led 16-9 at half-time after mammoth efforts from South Korean Tae Deok Eom and ensured they did not let it slip despite a late surge by the season 1 winners.
Bengaluru Bulls completed a hat-trick of losses at home for Puneri Paltan after edging past the home team 31-30 in the final group match of the season. Sachin V and Ravi V tried their best for the Puneri Paltan, but Rakesh Narwal and Deepak Dahiya made sure that the Bulls finished their campaign with a win despite fielding a makeshift side.
With the culmination of the Pune leg, Puneri Paltan were doomed to last spot just behind Bengal Warriors, while Dabang Delhi finished in 6th spot. Jaipur ended 5th after being narrowly edged to the 4th spot by Patna Pirates, who will face league toppers U Mumba in the semi-finals in Mumbai. The other semi-final will see 2nd placed Telugu Titans take on Bengaluru Bulls, who finished 3rd in the league stage.
The Pune leg was one of the most entertaining legs in the season and the culmination of the leg sees the league shift to Mumbai for the playoffs and the final.