Ranchi Rhinos came from a goal down to beat the Delhi Waveriders 2-1 and win the inaugural Hockey India League in a thrilling summit clash, in front of a capacity home crowd at the Astroturf Hockey Stadium here on Sunday.
The Rhinos were trailing for most part of the match after
Simon Child gave Delhi the lead in the 25th minute.
But the Ranchi outfit never gave up and displayed tremendous fighting spirit to score through Austin Smith (55th) before Manpreet Singh (63rd) scored a late winner for the home team.
Earlier in the day, the Uttar Pradesh Wizards rode on captain VR Raghunath's four goals, including a hat-trick, to finish third, defeating Jaypee Punjab Warriors 4-3 in the bronze medal play-off match.
As expected, the title clash, a match between the two best outfits of the tournament, saw scintillating hockey by both Delhi and Ranchi, which was fast and free-flowing.
The Rhinos seemed to enjoy playing in front of a vociferous home crowd as they overshadowed the Waveriders, at least, in the first quarter.
The match started on an aggressive note with both the teams adopting an attacking approach but it was the Rhinos who dominated the early exchanges with more penetrations inside the rival circle.
The Waveriders, however, picked up their game in the second quarter and scored against the run of play in the 25th minute through Child to silence the capacity crowd.
The opportunistic Child slammed the ball into the right corner of the Ranchi post after picking up a loose ball inside the D. The Rhinos got an opportunity to draw parity in the 32nd minute when they earned their first penalty corner, but skipper Moritz Fuerste's low flick was saved by an alert Nicolas Jacobi in the Delhi goal.
Raghunath to the rescue
Earlier, Raghunath spoiled Punjab's party with his sheer individual brilliance as he converted four penalty corners to ensure the win for the Wizards after they were down 0-3 till the 39th minute.
The Warriors, however, were the better side on display, at least in the opening half, as they controlled the proceedings from the onset. Mark Knowles (4th minute), SV Sunil (8th) and Ranjit Singh (39th) scored for the Warriors to hand them a commanding lead in the game.
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