A second-half turnaround saw Newcastle Vikings Handball Club’s men cruelly knocked out of the National Shield competition at the quarter-final stage by Reading Lions on Saturday at Temple Park in South Shields.
In a battle between the same teams who met at the semi-final stage of the predecessor League Cup competition last season, the first half saw Newcastle play some of their best team handball of the season as they built a somewhat unexpected lead in looking to avenge last year’s away defeat. Centre Julien Eng’s early strike started the Vikings’ scoring, soon adding another in between goals from half-players Etienne Lisse and Cedric Le Lay. An Eng hat-trick put the home side 7-5 ahead mid-way through the half, with goalkeeper Pål Jakobsen pulling off a series of brilliant saves to deny Reading’s attacking plays. Line-player Adam Mobberley, captaining the side for the first time, got in on the act too and Le Lay and Lisse each scored twice more. Three more from Eng took his personal tally up to eight before Mobberley’s second sent Newcastle into the half-time break in a positive mood at 16-13 up.
However, the Lions roared back strongly at the start of the second half as they began to find gaps in the Newcastle defence, and despite further back-court goals from Lisse and Eng’s brace, the Vikings struggled to find the net at the other end. Reading edged in front at 19-20, and while the Vikings fought hard they were unable to prevent the Lions from pulling further ahead. Right-winger Bogdan Ciurea added his name to the scoresheet, but by the time Eng struck his eleventh of the game and Le Lay another it was too little too late as Reading went through to the semi-final with a 22-28 away win.
The National Shield match was followed by two North East friendly league matches between Newcastle Vikings and the University of York. The Vikings ladies dominated their opponents for a runaway 18-1 victory, with line-player Maria Gonzalez and new centre Caroline Steinhagen both picking up their first Newcastle goals in top-scoring with five apiece. Newcastle’s men then picked themselves up to claim their second regional win of the month, extending a 16-11 half-time advantage into a convincing 33-13 second-half rout with Julien Eng once again top-scoring with seven strikes, with five each from Adam Mobberley, Matthew Lamb and Bogdan Ciurea.
Newcastle Vikings men (Shield match team): Daniel Walsh (GK), Pål Jokobsen (GK), Andrei Bogdan Ciurea (1 goal), Matthew Lamb, Cedric Le Lay (4), Adam Mobberley (2), Mohamed Fedi Boussema, Julien Eng (11), Etienne Lisse (4).