Ahmedabad: A clinical Bengal Warriors on Saturday clinched their maiden Pro Kabaddi League title by defeating Dabang Delhi 39-34 in a pulsating summit clash here.
Naveen Kumar was brilliant once again with 18 raid points for Delhi but uncharacteristic errors cost their title hopes in front of a packed audience, including Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, at the EKA Arena by TransStadia.
The Warriors did not have the services of star raider and captain Maninder Singh but got support with his presence as assistant coach of the team in the final match of Season Seven.
The pressure of the final got to the Warriors in the early minutes as Delhi stormed to a 6-0 lead. Naveen Kumar certainly looked charged up for the event while Delhi's cover combination of Anil Kumar and Vishal Mane also seemed keen to stop any raider coming their way.
The Delhi side clinched their All-Out in the 8th minute to open a four-point lead but the Warriors were a different side after the restart. Stand-in captain Mohammad Nabibakhsh picked up his game, clinching valuable raid points, as the Warriors quickly reduced Delhi's lead.
Delhi's Iranian player Meraj Sheykh impressed as a substitute, picking up two raid points in pressure situations, but the Warriors secured their first All-Out with under four minutes remaining for the break.
The closely-contested first-half ended with the scores levelled at 17-17.
The Warriors maintained that momentum in the second half as they quickly got into the lead. Sukesh Hegde once again sizzled for the Warriors with some mature raiding, often getting the better of Ravinder Pahal in Delhi's left corner.
Perhaps the smartest move from the Warriors' camp was to deploy the experienced Jeeva Kumar in a shifting cover role, depending on the raider's strong foot.
The decision helped as the Warriors clinched another All-Out in the 8th minute of the half to open up a 4-point lead.
Delhi's Naveen Kumar clinched his Super 10 in the 10th minute (21st consecutive) but his side struggled to get a stranglehold of the match as Warriors corner combination of Rinku Narwal and Baldev Singh also got into the game.
The Warriors inflicted another All-Out with six minutes remaining to open up a 10-point lead.
Naveen Kumar kept trying to script a comeback for the Delhi side, hitting the 300-point milestone in the process, but his work continuously got undone by uncharacteristic errors in the defence with the likes of Joginder Narwal and Ravinder Pahal struggling.
The Warriors' defence held tight in the final minutes to secure their maiden Pro Kabaddi League title....