Jaipur Pink Panthers outfox Puneri Paltan 33-29 in the finale to win their second title 

Jaipur Pink Panthers defenders were too strong for Puneri Paltan

Jaipur Pink Panthers ended their eight-year title drought by beating Puneri Paltan 33-29 in the finals to lift the PKL 9 title at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Indoor Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday. 

Pune took an early lead in the game after their captain Fazel tackled V Ajith Kumar. However, the latter brought Jaipur back in the game after his running hand touch on Pankaj Mohite equalised proceedings at 7-7. Nabibakhsh turned up the heat as he escaped a tackle attempt from Shaul Kumar and pinned Arjun with the help of Fazel to regain Pune’s two-point lead. 

However, the Do-or-Die raids restored parity for Jaipur as Pankaj Mohite got encircled by the opposition defenders while V Ajith Kumar bagged a running hand touch on Fazel in the next raid. 

Ajith’s two-point lead in the 18th minute put Jaipur in the ascendancy as he shrugged off the challenge of Gaurav Khatri and Sanket Sawant as the second line of defense failed to arrive on time. With only two men remaining on the mat, Abhinesh Nadarajan initiated an ankle hold on Ajith while Nabibakhsh dashed him away from the lobby to earn a Super Tackle for Pune. 

But, Pankaj Mohite made a schoolboy error in the next raid as he forgot to cross the baulk line. Jaipur had a slender two-point lead going into the break with the scoreline reading 14-12 in their favour. 

Ajith leapt over Nabibakhsh’s attempted ankle hold to restrict Pune down to one man and the All-Out was inflicted in the next raid when Jaipur allowed Akash Shinde the bonus but ushered him out away from the mat. With the scoreline reading 18-13 and the entirety of the second half remaining, Jaipur knew they had to maintain the lead. 

But Pune had other plans as they won four points in quick succession. First, it was Gaurav Khatri who pinned Arjun Deshwal followed by Akash Shinde getting a touch on Shaul Kumar and Reza Mirbagheri in a single raid. The Iranian duo of Fazel Atrachali and Mohammad Nabibakhsh tackled Ajith collectively to prune down Jaipur to three men. 

However, Jaipur escaped the trouble quickly as Ankush ‘Super Tackled’ Akash Shinde while Arjun Deshwal made the most of the lobby to send Nabibakhsh and Nadarajan to the bench. 

The cat-and-mouse chase between Jaipur and Pune continued as neither of the sides was able to inflict an All-Out on the other. Abhinesh Nadarajan and Nabibakhsh combined to take out Deshwal and ensured the margin of the game was maintained at four points. 

Shaul Kumar extended the lead to five points as his double ankle hold on Akash Shinde took out the latter. Jaipur almost had the game in their hands in the next raid when Aditya Shinde’s hand fell inches short of the mid-line. However, Pune successfully reviewed the contest as it was deemed that Abhishek KS pulled his jersey in the struggle to give a bonus plus one point. 

With the scoreline reading 30-27 and a little over a minute remaining,  Ajith Kumar wasted 20 seconds on the clock in his Do-or-Die raid. He was eventually ushered out of bounds but both the feet of one of the defenders were outside the lobby in the process, hence one point each was awarded to both sides. 

Aditya Shinde escaped from Shaul Kumar’s ankle hold but returned quickly to his side. Only 29 seconds remained on the clock and Jaipur had a two-point lead to their side at 31-29. Sunil Kumar was smart to crouch near the mid-line and wind down the clock but Nabibakhsh shoved him into his side to allow another Pune raid. 

Sunil Kumar kept a check on Aditya while the latter ventured deep to pick up another two points. However, his efforts bore no fruit as the other defenders piled their bodies on him in the buzzer raid. 

Sunil Kumar was the only player to complete a High Five in this closely contested final as neither of the raiders was able to bag a Super 10. Credit also needs to be given to V Ajith Kumar and Arjun Deshwal who notched six raid points each to their name. Abhishek KS, Shaul Kumar, and Ankush collectively bagged eight tackle points between themselves to thwart Aditya, Akash, and Pankaj Mohite’s raids.