As the Olympic Games handball action got underway in Rio, Newcastle Vikings’ men and women invaded England’s sunny Jurassic south coast last weekend to compete in the fourth British Beach Handball Championships in Poole, Dorset. The Vikings women were returning for their second year, while a combined Sunderland and Newcastle men’s team also ventured south to compete together as the fantastically named Sandcastles United.
Action-packed and fast-paced, beach handball is played on a smaller court than indoor handball, with only four players on court at any one time and continuous rolling substitutions. One of the key features of the beach version of the game is that double point goals can be scored when players make acrobatic 360-degree spins in the air before shooting or catch the ball in the air and shoot a ‘Kempa’ in the same motion before touching the sand. Goals scored by goalkeepers either from their own goal area or up in attack also score double. The winner of each half of the match scores one point, with drawn halves decided by golden goals, and if both teams each win a half the match result is decided by a running penalty shoot-out.
The 13-team women’s competition got underway on Saturday with Newcastle Vikings’ women taking on Cambridge in Group 2, the Vikings narrowly losing the first half 5-6 and the second half 6-10 for a 0-2 defeat. But they picked up their game to win their next match against Reading Lions, victorious 2-1 in the penalty shoot-out after winning the first half 8-3 and unluckily losing the second half 10-12. However, their final group game against a strong Oxford Blues team saw another 0-2 loss as they went down 14-19 and 8-13. The Vikings finished third in their group on two points, behind Oxford 6 and Cambridge 5, with Reading on 1 point.
The men’s Group 1 matches began with a tough start for the Sandcastles United team as they lost the first half heavily against Ruislip West London Eagles 10-21, but fought hard in a much closer 13-14 second half. Having started to get to grips with the tactics of the beach game they then surpassed expectations to narrowly win their second match 2-0 over reigning champions Brighton I, claiming the first half 12-11 with a golden goal and then 13-11 in the second half. The Sandcastles then won both of their final group matches in penalty shoot-outs after the half-winning points were shared. A big 23-12 first half win over Southampton was levelled by a 10-13 second half defeat, before they came back to win 6-5 in the shoot-out. Their Coventry match was also drawn 14-13 / 7-15 before winning the deciding shoot-out 5-3, as Sandcastles United finished the group well on 6 points.
Sunday’s action saw an early start for the Vikings women, drawn to play a Cup qualifier match against London team Olympia. But a tough 7-13 / 11-12 defeat meant they dropped into the second-tier Plate competition. Newcastle then scored their first 2-0 match victory in the quarter-final against home-town favourites Poole Phoenix I, running out convincing winners 8-5 and 19-7. However, they then came up against Oxford Blues once again in the Plate semi-final, narrowly losing the first half 12-13 and then 6-15 in the second half as injuries and tiredness took their toll.
The Sandcastles men went into their Cup quarter-final with a further depleted team of just five players, so it was always going to be an uphill struggle as they were also knocked out by Oxford Blues 10-18 and 15-20.
The 18-team men’s tournament was ultimately won by guest Dutch team Hiekka Hauskaa against Oxford Blues, as London GD retained the women’s cup against Poole Phoenix II. Brighton beat London GD in the men’s plate final shoot-out, while Oxford Blues went on to win the women’s plate. Hiekka Hauskaa also beat Poole Phoenix to take the boys under-18 crown.
Newcastle Vikings women: Andrea King (GK), Marie-Louise Brevet, Marlen Slinning (GK), Krystina Coulson, Sofie Vaula, Blessing Ogbee, Edna Ogbee, Eiman ElBanhawy, Kathryn Powell, Sandra Christke
Sandcastles United men: Wiktor Laczny (GK), Chris Bowe (GK), Gracjan Joppek, Jamie Lau, Matthew Lamb, Robert Thompson