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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Salford beat rivals London GD in play-offs

NORTHERN Section winners Salford beat Southern Section winners London GD 29-27 in a thrilling English National League play-off clash on Sunday.

Despite currently filling the second place spot, London GD went into the game confident. Having met Salford three times last season and winning each time, there would be no reason for them to expect anything but a victory this time round too.

Salford on the other hand could be far from confident. The last time these two teams met saw Salford end up on the wrong end of a 19 goal drubbing. A defeat that handed London GD last year's league title.

The game started tight with no team managing to turn their opening attacks into goals. However, London GD were first to break to deadlock and soon after had opened up a 4 goal to nothing lead.

At this stage there was a real danger of history repeating itself, but an opening goal from Salford's Aden Woodall seemed to ease the tension slightly and give the northerners the bit of a boost they needed. A few minutes later London GD were forced to call an early time out as Salford crept up on their lead and were now only trailing by two at 5-3.

The time out didn't help. With every attack that followed you could see the confidence growing in the youngsters from the north. All helped by their renowned strength in defence. As the sides grew level the turning of the tide was obvious. As the teams went in at half time Salford had returned the 4 goal deficit to go in ahead by a single goal at 12-11.

Clearly the start of the second half was going to be key now to the outcome of the game. If London GD could retake the lead and reopen their ealier advantage then the chances of Salford coming back again would be minimal. Once again crumbling to the southern superiority that had kept the title in the south for a number of years.

Salford, however, seemed to know what would be coming. Taking the time to refresh their line up, it was Salford that came out with all guns blazing, leaving their opponents shell shocked and trailing by 5 goals after just 5 minutes.

To their credit though London GD didn't give up. As true champions, they are always a threat and worked hard to try and recoup the deficit. But, Salford's greater fitness and speed just made that task impossible. Even with two late 2-minute suspensions, Salford would not succumb to London GD's pressure.

A goal to keep Salford up by three with a minute left made the outcome certain. Even with a late goal from London GD the result was now inevitable. Salford ending an entertaining match victorious at 29 goals to 27.

Salford Assistant Coach, Kristian Marsh, said after the game: “Any match against London GD is going to be tough. They are a well established club with a great record to show for it. They've been deserved champions for a number of seasons and any team that comes to play them have to be at their best, especially down here in London.

“We played well as a team today and showed that we do not rely on any one single player. This was a massive result for us, it takes us one step closer to the title and banishes the memories of last season's catastrophic final game. We do though need to keep the momentum going. This season's far from over and we are in no way guaranteed of anything. We've wounded London GD a little today, but, just like a wounded animal, that will make them all the more dangerous next time".

Notable performances on the day come once again from Salford's Rafik Tahraoui, scoring 6 goals, and London GD's Jordi Ferrer-Torras, scoring 7. With 11 assists Salford's Aden Woodall played a great supporting part and with a save rate of over 50 per cent Salford's Rob Avery showed his value in goal.

* In other play-off action, Cambridge moved up to fourth in the play-off table with a 23-17 victory over Manchester, while Ruislip Eagles were 34-25 winners over Leeds Hornets.

The play-offs resume on April 1 at Greenbank Sports Academy in Liverpool, where Leeds Hornets play London GD, Salford take on Cambridge and Manchester play Ruislip Eagles.

National U15 Champs attracts 100s of youngsters

MORE than 400 eager young handball stars of the future took part in the National Under-15 Championship heats at SportHouse in Barking last week.

The first round of the national competition saw a very high standard of handball being played.

The boys event was split into three groups, with the top three teams from each going forward to the next stage of the competition. From Group One, Carshalton Boys, Woolwich Polytechnic and The Bromfords School go through, while in Group Two All Saints topped the group, while Bexley Heath and Tiffin School were close behind. And Harris Boys, Aylesbury Grammar and Seven Kings from Redbridge will also go through.

Harris Girls and barking Abbey were the two teams to go through to the next stage in the girls competition, while The Bromfords School and Bexley Heath will join them after finishing first and second.

The event took place at SportHouse, which is where international teams will train during the Olympic Games this summer.

After the event, Harris Girls Team Manager, Marcus Kudliskis said: ''Both the U13s and U15s National events were just amazing and extremely well organised, providing students with the opportunity to play on a full-size Olympic court, with official referees, and having to abide by all the Olympic rules and regulations.

“They were also greeted by professional players and coaches who even took the time to show students a few new skills and tricks whilst they were warming up on court!''

And Crispin School’s PE department also enjoyed the day, saying: “All the staff were really helpful and friendly and the referees all took the time to answer our questions about the game and helped our pupils to understand handball better (this was our first time playing other schools at handball and we have only really been playing it since January).

“A lot of our players were from year 9 (14 year olds), yet they really benefitted from playing. We had a 5 1/2 hour coach trip back to Somerset and they couldn't stop talking about it all the way back!”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wolves clinch EHA Cup quarter final spot

LIVERPOOL Wolves booked their place in the quarter finals of the EHA Men’s Cup with a 32-21 victory over Deva at the Greenbank Sports Academy in Liverpool on Sunday.

The Wolves started with an aggressive 5-1 defence which brought good results, allowing them to catch Deva on the break and obtain a comfortable six-goal lead throughout the first half.

Goals were coming from both teams, however, and Liverpool started stalling towards the end of the first half thanks to a deep defence from Deva which impeded Liverpool from moving the ball at a fast pace.

The second half started with Deva playing an aggressive 4-2 defence, followed by quick breakthroughs, and they managed to edge as close as four goals down. This could have gone very wrong for Liverpool, but somehow the Wolves managed to stop the tide against them and slowly, started to get over Deva's defensive efforts.

Once the technical faults on Liverpool's part started to fall, Deva could not get fast breaks, and struggled against the solid 5-1 defence. The physical strain started to show in both teams, but maybe due to inexperience, this lead to late tackles from the Deva defence, and a continuous six minutes with at least one man down. Liverpool utilised the chances and the score difference kept increasing until the final whistle, giving a clear victory for Liverpool in the end.

* This weekend, the National League play-offs resume with three matches being staged at the new SportHouse facility in Barking.

The key clash of the afternoon looks set to be the top-two match-up of London GD v Salford, while the other matches are Ruislip Eagles v Leeds Hornets and Cambridge v Manchester.

London GD edge past rivals Ruislip

London GD edged to a thrilling 25-24 victory over arch rivals Ruislip Eagles in the latest action from the English Women’s League.

The match at the new SportHouse facility in Barking was close throughout, although Ruislip had edged ahead 11-13 at the break, only for London GD to hit back and take the win by the narrowest of margins.

Before that clash, Olympia beat Warrington Wolves 36-22 in the day’s other league match. Ten goals from Dorota Basta and nine from Souniv Naess helped them take the win.

But that was not the end of the day for Warrington Wolves, who had a short break before having to play Thames in the EHA Cup two hours later.

However, their efforts took their toll and Warrington went down 34-22, with Thames’ top-scorer being Emilie Enger Has with seven goals.

Newcomers Gedling host tournament

THE new Gedling Warriors Handball Club had their first real run out last weekend, taking on the Universities of Nottingham and Loughborough in a friendly round robin tournament.

Warriors were only formed in September last year and will hope to be competing in the Development Leagues next season.

In their first match they took on Loughborough and although the students had the best of the first half, after the break the Warriors fought back hard and put their opponents under some pressure. Although Loughborough ran out winners 17-13 thanks to a sterling first half performance, the new boys took the second half.

Loughborough were straight back onto court to take on Nottingham and this was a superb advert for Student Handball with the game nip and tuck right up to the last 5 minutes or so when Nottingham just took advantage of a tiring Loughborough team, winning 24-21.

The last match saw Gedling take on Nottingham to try to improve on the 27-9 defeat inflicted on them by the students last December. Nottingham were keen to do well and were only 11-9 down at half time. Once again, Nottingham called on their greater experience to pull away, eventually winning the game 23-14 and, with it, the tournament.

Gedling are looking for as many fixtures as possible between now and next season in an attempt to become more competitive – contact Colin Wills for more details on Colin.Wills@nottingham.ac.uk

Top skills on show in U13 Champs

SOME top handball skills were on show at the National Under-13 Handball Competition in Barking on Saturday, where the new SportHouse facility played host to the regional heats.

More than 300 young people took part in the event, from schools and clubs from across London and the South of England. The top three teams from both the boys and girls competitions will go through to the second round of the competition in May, with the grand finals eventually being held in London in June.

Ark Academy from Wembley won all their games to finish as top girls team, while also going through to the second round are Harris Girls Academy and last year’s finalists Helenswood Girls Academy.

Harris Boys School from Southward won the boys Group 1 event, again with maximum points, and they will be joined in the second round by Woolwich Polytechnic and Ark Academy.

The Boys Group 2 event was won by Erith School, while All Saints Catholic School and Carshalton Boys School also go through.

Carshalton Boys Team Manager Keith Middleton said: 'This has been a fantastic tournament that really showed off the progress that handball has made in the UK in the last couple of years. Lots of high level competition and more importantly hundreds of boys and girls enjoying themselves.”

And Lynn Barker, the Event Co-ordinator at SportHouse, added: “Friday, 16 March, saw the first competition in SportHouse, the under 13 schools completion saw schools from all over London competing in the first round.

“The young people were excited to be playing in this massive centre where the world’s best will be training during the Olympics. For many of the young people it was their first ever competition and both they and their teachers thoroughly enjoyed themselves and it was absolutely brilliant to see.”

* Photos by Mathilde Friggieri

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Salford book European slot

SALFORD secured their return to European competition for the first time in nearly 20 years when they beat National League play-off rivals Ruislip Eagles 32-24 on Sunday.

The victory keeps Salford top of the play-off table and extends their unbeaten run to 23 games. It also ensures they will finish in the top three, thereby giving them a spot in the European Challenge Trophy.

Salford's coach Bill Baillie said after the game: "This was a great result for us. Not only has it kept our place at the top of the league but it has also given us a great confidence boost for our next match against reigning league champions London GD. The fact that it has also secured our return to European Competition is just a massive bonus and reflects on all the hard work that has been put in this season.”

Any game against Ruislip is a tough test. Having been leaders of the southern section for much of the season and having defeated Salford on their last three meetings, Ruislip would go into the game as favourites. However, Salford were keen to exorcise past demons and come out of the game with the win they needed to secure a much prized European spot.

The game started off close with both sides swapping early goals, after 10 minutes Salford had managed to retain a slender one goal lead at 4:3. As the half progressed the crowd were entertained by some attractive handball from both sides. But, the strength of the Salford defence combined with their speed and creativity in attack meant that Salford never relinquished their early lead.

With 25 minutes gone Salford were four up, but some late mistakes in the half allowed the southerners to come back to within two at half time, Salford going in ahead 14:12.

The second half started well for Salford as they extended their lead to five goals. However, Ruislip weren't going to give in without a fight and brought the score back to within three. But that was the closest they were to come.

The strength of the Salford defence just proved too much for the Ruislip attack. Every goal scored had to be hard won. The Salford defence was unyielding, so much so that only four shots on the Salford goal came from the six-metre line.

Ruislip's attempts to break through being akin to King Knute trying to stop the tide. A sterling team effort combined with probably the performance of the day from Salford's Matt Lee made sure that just wasn't going to happen.

After 40 minutes of the game the constant pressure told and Salford managed to further extend their lead. After 50 minutes it was back out to 5 goals and by the end of the game the gap had grown to 8. Salford ending up deserved winners by 32 goals to 24.

Notable performances on the day came from Salford's Rafik Tahraoui and Ruislip's Ludovic Cros who both scored eight goals. But, as already mentioned, the performance of the day came from Salford's defensive stalwart Matt Lee.

* In other play-off action, London GD maintained second spot with a 31-20 victory over Manchester, while Cambridge won the clash of the bottom two, beating Leeds Hornets 29-13.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cup battles provide thrilling entertainment

THE first round of the EHA Cup provided some thrilling handball across the country last weekend, as clubs battled for a place in the last eight of the annual competition.

The match between Manchester University and Liverpool Speke Garston proved a real cracker, with Sugden Sports Centre in Manchester witnessing a high-octane and fast-paced game.

Liverpool Speke Garston continuing their recent improvement and pushed Manchester University all way. A series of missed open goal shots enabled the Manchester team to go in six goals ahead at half time.

The second half was fiercely contested and goals came fast and furiously as both teams raised the tempo, fast breaking by both teams pushed the score up as the teams clinically scored goal for goal throughout the half.

Liverpool Speke Garston hauled back the score in the last ten minutes, going for a man to man press that buckled the Manchester team. Liverpool Speke closed the gap to three goals but the damage done in the first half was to prove their downfall.

Having outscored Manchester in the second half it was not enough and Speke lost out 38-35. The game played was a credit to both teams and English handball.

Elsewhere, National League play-off leaders Salford cruised to a 26-7 victory over Manchester, while at Leyton SCORE Centre in London Cambridge just edged out Olympia 31-29.

Bath University came out 36-27 winners from their match against Warwickshire University, while the final round one match between Deva and Liverpool Wolves will be played on March 17.

Top clash in Play-Off Race

LEADERS Salford take on Ruislip Eagles in the second round of National League play-off matches at the Greenbank Sports Academy in Liverpool on Sunday.

The clash between the teams lying first and third could prove crucial to both side’s hopes of winning the league and going forward to European competition this summer.

In other matches that day, second-placed London GD will be aiming to keep pace with Salford when they take on Manchester, while the play-off’s bottom two teams, Leeds Hornets and Cambridge, will meet.

Thrilling matches in County Championships

THE future of handball in England is bright, if the standard of play on show at the County Championship and North v South Under-16s clash in London last weekend is anything to go by!

Four teams battled for the County title in the event, with Cheshire coming out on top, while Bedfordshire finished second, Merseyside third and London PA East fourth after six entertaining matches.

The games were very close, showing that no one region has the monopoly when it comes to handball skills, and many of the players on show could have bright futures ahead of themselves in the sport.

The day was rounded off by a North v South Under-16s match, which the North won 24-15.

But with just one training session together prior to the match, the south team acquitted themselves well.

Mohamed Elkedim, the coach of the Under-16 South Squad, said: “The tournament was well organised and we saw some good handball. The South team surely with time and more practise will improve more.”

* Photos by Mathilde Friggieri

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Frontrunners all win in Play-Offs

AFTER just one week of the English National League play-offs, the frontrunners are already starting to pull away following matches at Leyton SCORE Centre on Sunday.

Salford are top of the table after beating Cambridge 25-19 but had a tough job in battling past their southern rivals, who were holding them 9-11 at half time. Ryan Goodwin scored five goals for Salford, while Chris Bentz also netted five for Cambridge.

Elsewhere, third-placed Ruislip Eagles beat Manchester 32-19.

Last year defeat against Manchester at the exact same stage of the competition cost the Eagles the National title.

But on Sunday the Eagles did not make the same mistake. Although the start of the game was slow and marred by several offensive mistakes and technical faults, the Eagles regrouped and started taking control of the game a few minutes before the half time break when the score was 16-12.

Without complacency, they started the second half dominantly and used the depth of their bench to increase the gap. The defence appeared focused and solid around the goalkeeper Andrius Rinkevicius who conceded only seven goals in the second half.

Christin Nguelo with seven goals finished top scorer for the Eagles, but at the end it is a good collective performance that allowed the Eagles to take a clear victory 32-19.

In other matches, London GD maintained second spot with a 36-20 victory over Leeds Hornets.

The play-offs continue on March 11 at Greenbank Sports Academy in Liverpool with Salford v Ruislip, Manchester v London GD and Leeds Hornets v Cambridge.

Impressive line-up for Liverpool Festival

TEAMS from across Europe will come to England in May for the ever-popular annual Liverpool International Handball Festival.

The two-day event has attracted domestic teams from Spain, Norway, Holland and Switzerland as well as several top teams from England and Scotland.

Running from May 26-27, the event will also include a four-club wheelchair handball event.

Manchester go down against Speke Garston

MANCHESTER Handball Club were left reeling this weekend as they completed the final game of the English National League’s Northern Section, going down 19-28 against Liverpool Speke Garston.

Due to traffic problems the Liverpool Speke team started with four players missing and Manchester took full advantage controlling the game throughout the first half. Liverpool Speke Garston persevered keeping in touch to finish half time 14-10 down.

Galvanised by the half time team talk, Liverpool Speke Garston came out all guns blazing and put on a gritty defensive show matching Manchester goal for goal nullifying Karim Hammache in the process.

Manchester still led with 14 minutes to go, but the Liverpool Speke team began to dominate and clawed back the deficit racking in five goals without reply to go ahead. Remarkably Manchester only scored five goals in the second half period as the Liverpool Speke Garston team improved running out worthy winners.

Hawks Celebrate Top Award

NORTH East Manchester Hawks Handball Club is celebrating after its “Hands On” project was granted the prestigious London 2012 Inspire Mark.

The Inspire Mark is the badge of the London 2012 Inspire programme which recognises exceptional and innovative projects inspired by the 2012 Games.

The club, working in association with Oldham Council’s Sports Development team, is promoting the sport in several primary schools.

Players from the club, some of whom have already had international recognition at age-group levels, talk to pupils about their experiences at a special assembly and then join coaches to introduce the youngsters to the fast-flowing indoor sport.

Seb Coe, chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games said: “Hands On is encouraging local schoolchildren to fulfil their potential.

“I am proud that with the help of partners such as Oldham Council’s Sports Development team and the NEM Hawks club, we are delivering our vision to use the power of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games to boost participation in handball.

“The Inspire programme is ensuring the legacy of the 2012 Games starts now as projects like Hands On are enabling young people in Oldham to make positive life changes.”

Donna Hankinson, coach of NEM Hawks and also coach to the England Under 16 girls team, is the driving force for the sport in the North Manchester area.

She said: “I have played and coached handball for years and to see this recent explosion in the sport and the potential for more expansion post- London 2012 is fantastic.”

Emma Jenks, Oldham Council¹s Assistant Head of Integrated Youth Service, said: “We are all delighted to receive the Inspire mark. NEM Hawks have been pro-active in getting out to the schools in Oldham and this is a fantastic achievement for us all.”

Glasgow battle back against Edinburgh

GLASGOW battled back from a half time deficit to beat Scottish League title rivals Edinburgh by one point in a dramatic clash on Sunday.

Edinburgh led 14-17 at the break after a strong first period, but Glasgow dug deep and battled back to stay within one point of league leaders Tryst, who didn’t play.

Bottom of the league Dundee also battled back from a half time deficit to win 29-24 against EK82 – their first league victory of the season.

The Scottish League programme continues this Sunday when Glasgow and Tryst will play each other, and Edinburgh take on Dundee.