The defending champions Ranchi Rhinos registered a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the debutants Kalinga Lancers in a league match of the second edition of Hero Hockey India League (HHIL) at the Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Ranchi.
Ranchi Rhinos started the match as favourites and took the lead in the sixth minute of the match through Englishman Ashley Jackson’s strike on first penalty corner of Rhinos as he scored his third goal of the tournament.
Kalinga Lancers had a few share of attacks in the first quarter but the moves were not incisive to create any trouble for Ranchi Rhinos defense.
Ranchi Rhinos continued to play the attacking game in the second quarter but they failed to convert their chances into goals.
Kalinga Lancers, however, dominated the proceedings in the last five minutes of the opening half and earned as many as three penalty corners in succession, the third of which was converted by Argentine dragflicker Gonzalo Peillat to level the scores 1-1 at halftime.
Kalinga Lancers stunned Ranchi Rhinos and surged ahead in the 51st minute against the run of play through captain Kiel Brown ‘s strike after he was beautifully set up by Lalit Upadhay.
The final quarter witnessed intense battle between the two teams with lots of attacks on both sides but Ranchi Rhinos made use of their experience and converted their chances into goals to win the match after being down by a goal till the last 14 minutes of the encounter.
Skipper Moritz Fürste scored a diving field goal in the 57th minute to draw parity for the Ranchi Rhinos before Amon Tirkey’s beautiful field strike in the 63nd minute sealed the match in the Ranchi outfit’s favour.
Ranchi Rhinos will next face Dabur Mumbai Magicians in an away match on Sunday, while Kalinga Lancers will be up against Uttar Pradesh Wizards at Lucknow in the first match of Sunday.
Speaking on the performance Gregg Clark, Head Coach, Ranchi Rhinos said “the overall performance of the team was great however we need to look at a few areas that needs improvement. The team showed great mental strength and we seem to be on the right track for future games. During half time the team was under pressure but we discussed our strategy and the boys performed well and won the match.”
Post the match Coach, Terry Walsh, Kalinga Lancers said “while yes the game today was not satisfactory but the team is growing better with each match. The first quarter the team did not play well but the rest of the quarters the boys picked up on their game. Our team is as strong as any other team in the League, just that we need to improve certain aspects of our game ”.