In an exciting display, Ranchi Rays had the last laugh in the final of the HHIL 2015 that could have gone either way with the decision resting on penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw in regulation time. In an intensely fought game, it became a matter of which team could hold the nerves. In the end, Ranchi Rays emerged the Champions of Hero Hockey India League 2015 leaving the sound performing Jaypee Punjab Warriors hugely disappointed. The teams were equally matched throughout the 60-minute game and it was befitting that the contest between tournament’s top two teams had to be decided on shootouts. Ranchi boys kept their heads above their shoulders and ended up as winners of the month-long tournament that kept stadium audiences and TV viewers on the edge. The final match of the HHIL was graced by such illustrious personalities as Mr. Arun Jaitley, Governing Council Member, Hero Hockey India League and Finance Minister of India, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal, Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports, Mr Rajeev Mehta, Secretary General, IOA, Mr. Jan Albers, President of the Royal Dutch Hockey and Mohd Mushtaque Ahmad, Secreatary General, Hockey India.
Despite the local team not playing the final, the atmosphere was charged at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi. Jaypee Punjab Warriors seemed unaffected by the absence of mercurial Jamie Dwyer and played with the intent of pushing Ranchi Rays all the way. Both teams concentrated on the defense in the first two quarters and missed out on scoring opportunities. In the 19th minute, JPW earned their first penalty corner but Sandeep Singh’s strike was saved by Lovell Tyler. JPW got another chance, moments later, but no JPW player could deflect Malak Singh’s exquisite cross from the right flank. RR also penetrated the JPW circle a few times but didn’t look threatening. All promising chances were missed by JPW and RR in the first two quarters and the first half ended goalless.
In the second half, JPW scored their first goal in the 39th minute, when Jake Whetton’s cross was maneuvered into the net by Kieran Govers, leaving little time for Lovell Tyler to react as the goalkeeper saw the ball passing between his legs. The joy of an early 1-0 lead for JPW was short-lived, when RR earned a penalty corner in the 42nd minute and although they couldn’t convert from Ashley Jackson’s strike, Stanli Minz pounced on the counter to beat Jaap Stockmann. The end of the third quarter came with the score reading 1-1.
There was feverish activity in the fourth quarter with both teams trying to put pressure on each other. JPW got another penalty corner but Jaap Stockmann was equal to task and cleared the danger. In the 56th minute, JPW’s Satbir Singh went solo at the RR goal with a defender chasing him and even as Satbir entered the circle, he was wrongly obstructed by Lovell. Camera replays were required and Punjab earned the penalty corner. This time, Christopher Ciriello took the flick and found the net to send cheers among JPW supporters on the 2-1 lead. But even before the noise could die down, Ranchi Rays found the equalizer, when Barry Middleton shot past Jaap Stockmann. With three minutes remaining, both teams tried to wrest the dying moments’ advantage. JPW and RR both earned last-minute penalty corners but neither team could move into the lead as regulation time came to an end. With scores tied at 2-2, the fate of 2015 Hero Hockey India League final, wrested on the heart-stopping penalty shoot-outs.
JPW had a first chance in the shoot-out but they muffed the opportunity as Simon Orchard failed to get past an agile Lovell Tyler. With RR converting their first chance, JPW were pressurized. They needed to convert all their next chances and hoped for a couple of misses from RR. While JPW’s next two attempts were converted by Christopher Ciriello and Dharamvir Singh, they missed two more chances, when SV Sunil and Robert Hammond missed. With RR missing just once, they emerged winner on account of JPW’s poor shootout conversion.
The hard-fought 3-2 victory made Ranchi Rays richer by INR 25 million, while Jaypee Punjab Warriors earned INR 12.5 million. For RR, their goalkeeper Lovell Tyler was brilliant under the bar and especially at the crunch penalty shootout time. It was fitting that the two equally matched teams met in the final of this year’s Hero Hockey India League and until the very last minute, the result could not be known. Nothing can be more thrilling than that.
Earlier, Delhi Waveriders defeated Uttar Pradesh Wizards 2-1 and ended at the third place in this year’s tournament. After missing the chance of making it to the final, both teams were determined to win. While the first-half ended at 1-1, Waveriders kept the pressure in the second-half and scored the crucial goal to win by 2-1. Their efforts earned them INR 7.5 million.