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Classy Rhinos romp into final

Ranchi, Feb. 9: The Ranchi Rhinos gored their way into the finals of the Hockey India League here today drubbing Uttar Pradesh Wizards 4-2 at Morabadi’s astroturf hockey stadium.

The Rhinos, playing the first semi-final match of the day, attacked right from the word go, conjuring some excellent dribbles on the field and dominating the proceedings from the start. It was only a matter of time before the goals trickled in.

The first Rhinos goal found the back of the UP net as early as the fifth minute with Mandeep Singh, fondly referred to as Baby Rhino by his team mates, beating Wizards’ goalkeeper George Bazeley with an excellent push.

Jolted by the early goal, the Wizards regrouped and stepped up their attack, making good runs into the Rhinos half only to be foiled by a strong defence. Nithin Thimmaiah, however, broke the jinx for the UP team, receiving a good pass and flicking the ball into the net to score the equaliser in the 16th minute.

The game evenly poised, the Rhinos decided to show their opponents why they were the second best team in the league on points, switching gears and mounting attacks on the UP goal.

New Zealander Nick Wilson again put the Rhinos ahead in the 31st minute, dribbling past four opponent players and flicking the ball beyond the reach of the surprised goalkeeper, drawing crazy cheers from the Ranchi crowd.

The second half saw the Wizards’ somehow managing to claw their way back into the match equalising in the 50th minutes.

The Rhinos, however, then went for the jugular, making penetrative runs in UP’s half, with goal-hungry Mandeep and Wilson prowling the D-box sniffing for opportunities.

The first of the chances for the Ranchi team came in the 63rd minute with Wilson, with his characteristic electrifying speed, outrunning a host of UP defenders to send the ball flying past goalkeeper Bazely.

Mandeep drove the final nail in the Wizards’ coffin with another brilliant show with the stick right before the final hooter. The “Baby Rhino” received an aerial ball from one of his team mates, dribbled past two players and calmly pushed it into the back of the net to emphatically earn his team a well deserved place in the final.

The match was watched by Federation of International Hockey president Leandro Negre and chief executive officer Kelly Fairweather.

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