Rhinos hand Wizards their first loss in HIL

Ranchi: Late strikes from Nick Wilson (67th min) and Ashley Jackson (69th min) helped Ranchi Rhinos beat Uttar Pradesh Wizards 3-1 in a Hockey India League match at the Astroturf Hockey stadium here on Thursday.

The Rhinos were the first to get off the block and raided the opposition citadel at regular intervals but their forwards` inability to keep their composure inside the striking circle did not pose any real threat to the Wizards goalkeeper.

Skipper Moritz Fuerste (27th min) opened the account for the Rhinos from a lucky break as he managed to get a faintest of touch from Birendra Lakra`s hopeful hit towards the Wizards goal from the 25-yard line, to send the crowd in rapture.

The hosts, however, continued to waste chances at will, including six penalty corners in the first three quarters.

They were made to pay for the lapse opportunities when Wizards` Luke Doerner converted a penalty corner in the dying minutes of the third quarter to level the score.

Both the teams were guilty of not showing the precision required to score goals till Nick Wilson beat the Wizards` custodian with a reverse hit from the left flank just three minutes from the final hooter.

Ashley Jackson then converted a penalty stroke in the dying moments of the game to complete the score line 3-1.

With three wins and two losses, Ranchi Rhinos are now placed at second position with 17 points while UP Wizards, who suffered their first loss in the competition, have 15 points from five games.

Despite the two goal victory margin, Rhinos` coach Gregg Clark was not very happy with the fact that the match was alive till the 67th minute because of their strikers suspect shooting. He, however, praised goalkeeper Francisco Cortes to keep the home team in the hunt till the final hooter.

"Our game today was good, but in comparison with yesterday`s game we scored lesser goals. But we did capitalise on as many opportunities we got except for the PC`s we missed. Birendra Lakra played exceptionally well today," he said.

But captain Fuerste down played the shooting problems and said: "We are very happy to come back after yesterday`s loss and win this game."

While, UP Wizards coach Roelant Oltmans said: "The spectators in Ranchi are fantastic and this is the best crowd we have ever seen. I guess the support made all the difference today. We plan to leave behind this loss we faced in Ranchi and move on with the tournament in a positive manner."

Ranchi Rhinos and UP Wizards will again square-off on January 26, this time at Wizards` home venue of Lucknow.