Army Red overhauled a significant deficit with a strong comeback in the second half before outplaying Chennai Cheetahs 24-16 in a keenly contested main plate final of the all-India and South Asia rugby tournament here on Saturday.

The outstanding effort helped the Indian Army team retain the title for the fourth consecutive time.


The final result appeared unlikely going by the dominance Cheetahs enjoyed in the first half. The Chennai team played a fine attacking game and ran up a comfortable 16-0 lead in the first half to make the holder appear like a group of amateurs.

Chennai's relentless attacking helped it earn five penalties out of which three were converted by its midfield mainstay Emil Vartazarian, who found the mark in the 12th, 20th and 32nd minutes.

Cheetahs ended the first session with a try from Mohan Raja and a subsequent conversion from Emil completing the tally (16-0).

With expectations running high in the second half about Cheetahs realising its maiden title, the Army team made the turnaround.

Adopting a free-flowing attack with a quick passing approach Army Red was on top of Cheetahs and gained the lead in the 67th minute a from a combination of tries, including a penalty try, and drop goal.

The Army team's efforts were further aided by subsequent yellow cards and a resultant 10th-minute ‘sin-bin' (suspension) each to three Cheetahs players that kept the Chennai team down a man for a greater part of the second session.

Pushpendu Das opened the score off a penalty try (seven points) in the 49th minute before Shahnawaz Ahmed made a try and Pushpendu converted to double the score in the 56th minute.

Senthil Kumar's drop goal in the 67th minute helped Army Red gain the lead (17-16). Hemant Kumar took the Army-men closer to the title with a try in the 76th minute that was again converted by Pushpendu, who top-scored for his team fetching 11 points.

The losers' plate went to the local side Jungle Crows, which beat another city team Kolkata Police 37-5 in a rather one-sided encounter.

The results (finals):

Main plate: Army Red 24 bt Chennai Cheetahs 16.

Losers' plate: Jungle Crows 37 bt Kolkata Police 5.

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