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Haryana Steelers beat Jaipur Pink Panthers, book their place in PKL Final

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Hyderabad: A tactically astute Haryana Steelers beat Jaipur Pink Panthers 31-27 to book their place in the finals of the PKL Season 10 at the GMC Balayogi Sports Complex here on Wednesday night.

The Steelers’ first final was the result of a brilliant team performance, with their raiding duo of Vinay and Shivam Patare the stars on an emotional evening. They will play Puneri Paltan for the title on March 1.

The tense nature of the encounter meant neither side committed too much forward, or took too many risks, resulting in a low-scoring but absorbing affair.

Arjun Deshwal and Vinay traded raids constantly and with both defences firing there seemed to be little to choose between the two sides for the opening period.

The difference lay in the variety the Steelers offered on the raid. The majority of Jaipur’s raid points this season have come via Arjun Deshwal and he contributed exactly 80% of their raid points in the first half of the game.

Without him Pink Panthers looked lost and so the Steelers started targeting the lead man. Soon enough they inflicted the first All-out of the game to take a 13-7 lead, and kept chugging away, with Vinay and Shivam Patare’s dual attack offering no respite for Pink Panthers.

The Steelers went into the break leading by 6 points.

Pink Panthers rallied in the second half, buoyed by Arjun Deshwal’s ability to keep bringing back points from his raids. Their weak link though was a defence that was unable to stop the Steelers raiders from doing the same.

Through the first half hour of the game Pink Panthers defence managed a mere three tackle points.

Just when it seemed like they had momentum on their side though the Steelers raiders hit back and streaked into a six point lead.

With Arjun Deshwal off the mat, Pink Panthers looked out of sorts, and Vinay’s Do-or-Die raid to take out Bhavani Rajput and Sunil Kumar put them on track for another all out.

A Super Tackle by Reza Mirbagheri staved off not just the All-out but also brought Pink Panthers to within four points with three minutes to play.

In crunch time the Steelers were the ones who held their nerve, and Ashish’s tackle on Deshwal with one minute left, effectively sealed the game. They ran down the clock, to spark raucous celebrations on their bench, taking their spot in the finals for the first time in the league’s history.

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