Newcastle Vikings came out on top 29-23 in Saturday’s local derby against the University of Sunderland’s men’s team at the Benfield Centre for Sporting Excellence.
The end-of-year friendly was Newcastle’s first full match since the tentative early summer return to handball after the Covid-19 pandemic had put all handball action on hold back in March 2020, as they sought to build upon strong team performances in recent short-format friendly games. And it was the first time that Sunderland University’s new team, coached by former Vikings and Sunderland player Jack Woods, had faced their North East rivals since re-forming earlier in the year ahead of the new British Universities Handball Championships.
While Newcastle had opted not to enter the England Handball leagues this season due to uncertainties over player numbers and availability following the lockdowns, Sunderland University have struggled so far in their first league season and currently sit bottom of the four-team North Regional League having lost all six of their matches. So both teams saw this local friendly as an opportunity to give their players a chance of a bit more match play as well as practising their set moves. The Wearsiders were also boosted by a guest appearance from another ex-Newcastle and Sunderland player Wiktor Laczny as they fought the Vikings close throughout the match, with the home side extending a four-goal 15-11 half-time lead to a six-goal win by the final whistle.
Centre Timo Keller top-scored with 10 goals for the Vikings, with right-half Fabian van der Velden striking eight. Adam Mobberley fired in five from the wing, with line-player Christos Iliadis netting four times and left-half Adam Batley and winger Aaron Edmundson each scoring once. Newcastle’s other players were Craig Swanson, Sam Downie, goalkeeper Charlie Emmett, plus women’s players Lisa Mistareck and Romina Schneider also making guest appearances. Laczny’s nine goals meanwhile put him top of the university side’s scorers.
Captain Mobberley was pleased with how well everyone had played in making it a great game to end the year ahead of the festive break. Go Vikings and Merry Christmas everybody!