The Haryana Steelers have been an unlucky lot. They lost their first match against U Mumba by just a point. Their second match against Gujarat Fortunegiants remains the only draw and the most thrilling clash of the season thus far. In both those matches, they showed their ability to fight back from almost hopeless situations. Their moment of reckoning finally came when they defeated faced Gujarat once again and won 20-32. “We needed this win,” said coach Rambir Khokhar in an interaction with the media after the match, “We wanted to win the first two matches and came very close. But today the boys have shown what we can do.”
That Haryana Steelers had a reliable defensive setup, was known to everyone. But, so far into the season, Haryana have managed to put up all-round performances. Surender Nada and Mohit Chillar have been solid in defence and it has been 19-year-old Vikash Khandola who has led from the front in attack. On Tuesday, he scored six points for Haryana. Has he got the potential to become the best in the league? “Not just the league,” said Khokhar, “In the next Asian Games he will show that he is one of the best raiders in the country.”
The first half was a continuation of the match that the two sides played in Hyderabad. Haryana dominated the first few minutes but Gujarat clawed their way back in. If Vikash Khandola was the star of the match for Haryana, Sachin was Gujarat’s man in the first half. He scored five of the six points that Gujarat got in the first 13 minutes of the match. Much of Haryana’s points, on the other hand, came from their tackles, possibly a reason why their coach branded it as the best in the league after the match. “Our defence was brilliant today. We had planned that the two corners need to be as effective as possible. Mohit (Chillar) and Surender (Nada) led well today.” Chillar and Nada’s brilliance was on display when Haryana Steelers started pulling away towards the end of the first half. Sukesh Hegde was raiding for Gujarat, Chillar and Nada were at the two corners. As soon as he saw the chance, Chillar bent his head and took on a charging Sukesh Hegde, Nada clamped in from behind and Hegde was out, a Super Tackle went the Steelers’ way. At half time, Haryana were leading 9-13.
The second half turned out to be a more one sided affair. Nada and Chillar kept the defence tight while raiders such as Khandola and Surjeet Singh started collecting points from the other end. With 11 minutes left, the first all out of the game was inflicted on Gujarat Fortune Giants. Just three minutes later, Gujarat’s Mahender Rajput got a Super Raid. Event that, though was not enough to prevent them from slipping into an eight-point defeat.