After leading for much of the game, Newcastle Vikings’ women’s handball team were unlucky to be narrowly beaten 23-21 by NEM Hawks in their North Regional Development League match in Bolton last Sunday.
After the Hawks had been unable to fulfil the reverse fixture the previous weekend, with the Vikings consequently being awarded a 10-0 win by the England Handball Association, this would be the teams’ only physical encounter this season, and physical it certainly was.
After half player Gesa Junge set the Vikings’ ball rolling, the first half was dominated by a string of great goals by the returning Sofie Vaula, firing in an array of scores both from the wing and the line positions, left-half Judyta Turulska also picking up a brace. The Manchester-based side were initially finding it hard to break through a solid Newcastle defence at the other end, backed up by some excellent agile goalkeeping from Andrea King between the posts, but recovered enough to draw level 8-8 by half-time.
The Vikings came out the stronger after the break, quickly stretching out a five-goal lead as each of the other Newcastle out-field players got themselves on the scoresheet in a great team performance, including a quick-fire double from Marie Brevet, unusually playing in the half position. But the bigger and stronger Hawks, benefiting from several experienced Super 8 league players in their squad, gradually clawed their way back with some powerful strikes from their back-court players and a couple of penalties that the diving King was unfortunate not to save.
But as the Vikings fought hard to stay ahead, the game was over-shadowed by a nasty foul on player-coach Marlen Slinning who suffered a suspected broken nose as she tried to break through the Hawks defence line, so missed the last five minutes of the match. The incident meant a tense finale, but the Hawks seized the initiative with a few fast breaks to breach the unsettled Newcastle team and ultimately just edge the game 23-21 come the final whistle.
Newcastle Vikings nevertheless remain second in the league table, ahead of their deciding final weekend double-header against the two Merseyside teams next month.
Newcastle Vikings: Andrea King (GK), Marie-Louise Brevet (2 goals), Marlen Slinning (1), Judyta Turulska (3), Sofie Vaula (8), Gesa Junge (1), Blessing Ogbee (2), Sandra Christke (3), Josefine ‘Fienke’ Nanne (1)