Newcastle Vikings Handball Club’s men’s team were sent to Coventry to take on the Sharks in their first appearance up in the National League North on Sunday afternoon.
In a battle between a Coventry Sharks side relegated from the top-flight Super 8 league at the end of last season and a Newcastle side making their debut up in the England Handball Association’s renamed second-tier division, it proved to be a tough first half for the Vikings as they struggled to get going and fight off the attacking strength of the more experienced Sharks. The home side took an early lead, but after a slow start captain David Topacho struck Newcastle’s first goal of the season from the back-court, soon followed by goals from centre Adam Harwood and line-player Julien Eng.
The Vikings continued to fight their way back into the game with further goals from Topacho, Eng and wingers Matthew Lamb and Adam Mobberley, but couldn’t contain the Sharks’ on the fast breaks as they continued to concede goals at the other end. Half-player Topacho added his fourth just before half-time, but the Vikings went into the break 18-9 down.
However, Newcastle started the second half the stronger team, scoring several goals on the bounce without reply to close the gap, Topacho’s fifth being followed by a quick-fire hat-trick from youngster Harwood. The Great Britain under-20 international, a new Vikings aquisition from Milton Keynes club Oly Cats after moving to study at Durham University, dominated Newcastle’s scoring as he notched-up 10 second-half goals in a player-of-the-match performance, including another hat-trick towards the end of the game.
Topacho meanwhile added another two to his personal tally, while further Lamb and Eng strikes also interspersed Harwood’s onslaught. But despite defending much better and making Coventry work harder for their goals from open play, the home side fought back themselves as Newcastle missed a few opportunities in pushing to narrow the Sharks’ lead further.
Coventry Sharks ultimately finished 33-24 winners by the final whistle, but the Vikings came away largely pleased with their performance having equalled the Sharks’ scoring in a more promising second-half showing and will look forward to their next match away to Manchester I next month.
Newcastle Vikings: Mark Harrison (GK), Robert Thompson, Etienne Lisse, David Topacho (7), Matthew Lamb (2), Adam Harwood (11), Adam Mobberley (1), Jonathan Bastit, Julien Eng (3).