The third Senior Federation Cup Kabaddi tournament came to a thrilling conclusion on Sunday as Services edged past Karnataka to lift the men's title after Indian Railways had pipped national champions Himachal Pradesh in a humdinger earlier in the evening to clinch the women's crown in front of packed terraces at the SRPF ground in Mumbai.
The men's final turned out to be a battle of chess as both sides started cautiously, happy to do the scoring in the do-or-die raids. However, this approach suited Services, who were able to hold firm in defence, ably led by Surjeet Singh, giving very little away to Karnataka's raiding trio of Shabeer Bapu, Sukesh Hegde and Prashanth Kumar Rai.
Karnataka, who had depended massively on their raiders to do the scoring throughout the tournament, failed to display patience and calm while defending, allowing in-form Services raiders Nitin Tomar and Monu Goyat to pluck points away in their raids.
The 2017 national champions eventually enforced an all-out on Karnataka to take a 11-2 lead in the first half.
Karnataka reacted by playing more freely thereafter and dragged themselves in contention on the stroke of half time when they inflicted an all-out on the Services side. Hegde was at the forefront of the South Indians' resurgence but his efforts could only reduce the deficit to six points at the interval.
Taking a 15-9 lead into the second half, Services defence sat deep in their half, making them less vulnerable to Karnataka's raiders. However, Hegde wasn't to be denied as his two-point raid midway through the second half brought Karnataka within a point of Services.
A tackle on Goyat meant Karnataka completed a fine comeback, but a bit of complacency allowed the wily Tomar to steal bonus points away and put Services in front again. With less than 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Hegde once again showed his class and rattled the Services defence with his raids to bring the game level at 22-22.
However, it was Goyat who had the final laugh. Exposing the slight weaknesses in the Karnataka defence, the Patna Pirates raider picked up two crucial points in his raids in the dying minutes to swing the encounter back in Services' favour with a 25-24 lead.
Bapu had a chance to pull Karnataka back in the reckoning but the U Mumba man succumbed in a do-or-die raid to put Services within moments of glory. At the buzzer, Services erupted in joy after sealing a 28-15 victory in a tense final.
The victory was quite satisfying for Services, having overcome strong sides like Indian Railways and Haryana on their way to the final. A fine show from Goyat had helped Services come from behind to beat Anup Kumar's Haryana 38-31 in the semi-final, while Karnataka got the better of national champions Maharashtra after a fairly comfortable 39-31 victory in the last-four clash.
Indian Railways prevail in exciting women's finale
Indian Railways rode on Pinki Roy’s superb catch of the Himachal Pradesh raider in the final minute to win the closely-contested women's final 26-25.
For large parts of the encounter, it appeared as if the Railways side would run away with it but national champions Himachal Pradesh showed why they are such a difficult side to beat as they staged a late comeback in the final after trailing 16-9 at half time.
Raider Nidhi Sharma (6 points) and defender Sarika (3 points) led Himachal’s fightback in the second half as they packed off the entire Railways team with five minutes to spare to reduce the deficit. With pressure mounting, Railways players were guilty of making too many errors and both the teams were locked on 25-25 with a minute to play.
But the experienced Roy kept her nerves to catch Sharma and help her team avenge last month’s loss in the Nationals. Payal Chowdhary and Sonali Singate earned five points each from their raids for the champions.
Updated Date: Feb 13, 2018 18:07 PM