New Delhi, Feb 22:
Ranchi Rays won the Hero Hockey India League (HIL) title defeating Jaypee Punjab Warriors 3-2 via a penalty shootout in the final at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here Sunday.
During the 60 minutes of play, Kieran Govers (39th minute) and Christopher Ciriello (56th) scored for the 2014 edition runners-up Warriors. Rays drew level through Stanli Minz (43rd) and Barry Middleton (57th).
The game went into the penalty shootout where Warriors’ Simon Orchard, Rob Hammond, S.V. Sunil failed to score. Dharamvir Singh and Chris Ciriello managed two goals for them.
For Rays, skipper Ashley Jackson scored once and returned to convert a penalty stroke, while Daniel Beale scored the other goal.
With this win, the city of Ranchi has got two HIL titles as the now-defunct Ranchi Rhinos had won the inaugural title in 2013.
Many members of the Rhinos played for Rays, which was co-owned by Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sahara group.
Warriors also lost the second consecutive final of the tournament.
Earlier in the day, Delhi Waveriders defeated Uttar Pradesh Wizards 2-1 to claim the third position.
Rupinderpal Singh (fifth minute), Yuvraj Walmiki (50th) scored for 2014 edition champions Waveriders, while Nikkin Thimmaiah (18th) scored the only goal for Wizards.
Warriors had lost to Waveriders in the 2014 edition final and it hunted the Chandigarh-based side again in this year’s final.
The final opened up at a breakneck speed with both the teams not trying to outwit each other and they hardly put a foot wrong in the first quarter. They were determined not to leave any space of opportunities for each other.
Despite the five-time World Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer not playing the match, Warriors peppered the rival circle with several quick forays. Jake Whetton, Kieran Govers combined well with S.V. Sunil and Malak Singh.
Skipper Mark Knowles played most part of the match and looked fit despite an ankle injury that subdued him in the semifinal against Delhi Waveriders Saturday.
For Rays, skipper Jackson led from the front and along with veteran Englishman Middleton, he kept goalkeeper Jaap Stockmaan busy. JacksonaÂ¿s contest with Orchard was enthralling.
However, defenders of both the sides ensured that they don’t concede penalty corners. Both the teams had powerful drag-flickers and this meant that Sandeep Singh and Jackson were bereft of set-pieces. This resulted in the goalless scoreline till the half-time.
Six minutes into the third quarter, Warriors pressed hard for a penalty corner and they got after Sunil combined with Dharamvir Singh, who passed it to Whetton. The Australian found a foot of a defender that followed a short corner. But Sandeep flicked straight to Rays goalkeeper Tyler Lovell to waste the chance.
Warriors’ hard work paid dividends when Govers slapped past Lovell in the 39th minute to give Warriors the crucial lead.
Wounded after conceding the lead, Rays hit back. Minz earned a penalty corner after Sandeep pushed the striker. However, Jackson’t flick was halted and it rebounded towards Minz, who guided the ball in to score the equaliser in the 43rd minute.
With Fergus Kavanagh’s solid defence, Jackson’s energy and Middleton’s strategic play, Rays moved ahead.
Warriors looked more passive after conceding the goal and slowly upped their game.
Christopher Ciriello converted a penalty corner in the 56th minute. But, it didn’t take much time for Rays to bounce back as a hungry Middleton made the most of a pass from Trent Mitton to deflect the ball in from a close range that took the game to the penalties.
Other teams in the six-side tournament, Kalinga Lancers finished fifth with 21 points, while debutants Dabang Mumbai took the last spot. IANS