Defending champions Ranchi Rhinos rode on Ashley Jackson’s late penalty corner conversion to register their first win in the Hero Hockey India League 2014 by beating Delhi Waveriders with a solitary goal in a keenly-contested league match at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium here Monday.
It took the Rhinos 63 minutes to break the deadlock through Jackson, who converted a set-piece to open the hosts’ account in the second edition.
With two last year’s finalists in action in reigning champions Ranchi Rhinos and runners-up Delhi Waveriders, it was expected to be a close contest and it turned out to be one as both the teams matched each other stick by stick.
Still reeling from their 2-3 defeat at the hands of Uttar Pradesh Wizards in their tournament opener, the Ranchi Rhinos however started on a positive note and put Delhi Waveriders defence under pressure early on.
The hosts created a few bright openings in the beginning but their forward line led by star striker Mandeep Singh wasted the opportunities as the Delhi outfit displayed some stout defending.
As the match progressed, the Delhi Waveriders slowly and steadily got their footing in the match and managed to earn their first real chance in the 17th minute through a penalty corner which was brilliantly saved by Ranchi Rhinos goalkeeper Francisco Cortes to deny Rupinderpal Singh.
After some midfield slugfest, Amon Tirkey missed a golden opportunity for the Ranchi Rhinos when his reverse shot from inside the circle hit the side-board.
Few minutes later, Akashdeep Singh and Talwinder Singh combined well to earn Delhi Waveriders a penalty corner but the visitors wasted the chance because of a bad push.
Ranchi Rhinos almost thrice had shots at the Delhi goal just at the stroke of halftime but all the three attempts were kept away by Delhi Waveriders goalkeeper Hamish McGreger as both the teams failed to break the ice at halftime.
The Rhinos continued to press for goals after the crossover and in the process earned another penalty corner but Jackson missed the target.
Ranchi custodian Cortes had a brilliant outing as he produced numerous saves to keep his side in the hunt.
In the 62nd minute, Delhi Waveriders threatened the Ranchi Rhinos defence with three attempts in succession but Cortes came up with a triple save to keep a clean slate.
Cortes first saved twin tries from New Zealand striker Simon Child and then kept at bay Akshdeep’s hit from just inside the circle.
A minute later Jackson finally broke the ice when he made use of a penalty corner to send the home crowd into ruptures.
The Delhi Waveriders got a golden chance to equalise in the next minute but Andres Mir Bel’s attempt from a penalty corner went wide.
The win gave Ranchi Rhinos five points while Delhi Waveriders secured one point as per the rules of the tournament.
Ranchi Rhinos will next travel to Lucknow to face Uttar Pradesh Wizards Saturday, while Delhi Waveriders will host league debutants Kalinga Lancers Thursday.