Jaipur Pink Panthers strengthened their hold on the top of the Pro Kabaddi standings with a hard-fought 28-26 victory over floundering Tamil Thalaivas at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor stadium in Chennai on Wednesday.

Raider Nilesh Salunke starred for the Jaipur side with seven raid points, most of which came at crucial junctures for the Pink Panthers. Their cause was also helped by three super tackles in the first half as they won the match without even inflicting an all-out on the home side.

It was a close affair in the first three minutes of the game until Saluke put Jaipur 6-2 in front with a couple of successful raids at the five-minute mark.

The home side then gained points in two straight do-or-die raids to reduce the deficit to two points. Ajay Thakur’s successful raid followed by a tackle on Jaipur skipper Deepak Hooda levelled the score at 6-6 after ten minutes of play.

However, with the Pink Panthers down to just three men, a series of super tackles in combination with unforced errors from the Thalaivas defence helped Jaipur stave off an all-out on several occasions.

The home side went into the break trailing 11-13 but still with a chance of an all-out as Jaipur were down to two men.

However, Hooda scored a two-point raid for the Pink Panthers who followed it up with another super tackle on Thakur to stretch the lead to five points at the start of the second half.

The early wobble spurred the home side on who finally made their numerical superiority count when they inflicted the game’s first and only all-out in the 23rd minute to tie the score at 17-17.

However, Salunke kept on picking up crucial bonus points for the Pink Panthers as they regained their advantage, leading 20-17 in the 25th minute.

With the game entering final ten minutes, Rahul Chaudhari stepped it up to reduce the deficit to just one point, but Hooda got rid of the dangerman in his raid to ease the pressure on the Jaipur defence.

Playing on the do-or-die raids, substitute raider Deepak Narwal then got rid of Thalaivas skipper Ajay Thakur in a third raid to put Pink Panthers 26-22 in front with four minutes to play.

When the game seemed lost, Thalaivas youngster Vineet Sharma produced a two-point raid to give the home side hope again but an error from Ran Singh in a do-or-die raid for Pink Panthers allowed the visitors to maintain their advantage.

Chaudhari then failed in a do-or-die raid to put the game beyond Thalaivas’ reach as Jaipur closed a two-point win.

With the win, Jaipur Pink Panthers opened up a seven-point advantage at the top of the table having played two games more than second-placed Dabang Delhi. Tamil Thalaivas moved up to sixth place thanks to the solitary point they gained from the encounter.

Puneri Paltan ease past Bengaluru Bulls

Puneri Paltan registered a 31-23 win against defending champions Bengaluru Bulls in the earlier game on Wednesday.

A heavily bandaged Surjeet Singh was the leader (6 tackle points) in the defensive unit for Puneri Paltan, never allowing the league’s best raider, Pawan Sehrawat, to weave his magic.

Sagar Krishna came in for a struggling Girish Ernak as coach Anup Kumar made the changes to a faltering Pune side while the Bengaluru Bulls went in with an extra defender in the line-up buoyed by the performances of their two raiders in Pawan Sehrawat and Rohit Kumar.

It was the Pune team which started off well, consistently tackling Bengaluru Bulls raiders, with Sagar Krishna justifying his inclusion with an incredible body block on Rohit Kumar six minutes into the match.

The defensive units matched each other tackle for tackle, as the raiders, including Pune’s Nitin Tomar struggled to impress.

A low-scoring, heavy tackling first half, which also saw Sehrawat reach 100 points for the season, ended with scores even at 10-10.

Bengaluru’s decision to play just two raiders backfired as Paltan’s improved defence thwarted any raider who ventured into their territory.

Pune inflicted the game’s only all-out on Bengaluru Bulls in the sixth minute of the second half to open up an 8-point gap.

Manjeet’s clever raids in do-or-die situations were also vital for Pune as they raced to a two-digit lead.

The defence held firm, as Surjeet Singh completed a personal milestone of 250 points in Pro Kabaddi, and secured a very important victory that pushed his team up to 10th in the league standings.

Bengaluru’s loss meant they lost out on an opportunity to go to the top of the points table albeit temporarily.

On Thursday, Bengal Warriors take on Patna Pirates in a solitary game.

Points Table

1 JAIPUR PINK PANTHERS 9 7 2 0 45 36
2 DABANG DELHI K.C. 7 5 1 1 30 29
3 BENGAL WARRIORS 8 4 2 2 52 28
4 BENGALURU BULLS 9 5 4 0 8 27
5 HARYANA STEELERS 9 5 4 0 -26 26
6 TAMIL THALAIVAS 9 3 4 2 11 24
7 U MUMBA 9 4 5 0 0 24
8 U.P.YODDHA 9 3 4 2 -67 22
10 PUNERI PALTAN 9 3 5 1 -19 19
11 TELUGU TITANS 9 2 5 2 -36 18
12 PATNA PIRATES 8 3 5 0 -15 17