ENGLAND Under-18 boys secured a historic 29-27 victory over Moldova in their final qualifying match of the European Championships in Turkey last week.
Their debut victory came after a superb performance from all members of the team, and left Head Coach Scott Harrington a happy man.
Although a small nation, Moldova are strong in handball and won the senior European Challenge Trophy earlier this year.
But England were not daunted by their final opponents in a three-match group stage to the Under-18 European Championships.
Training camps in Germany and Denmark had paid dividends and the squad held a further preparation camp at SportHouse in Barking, and friendly matches were played with Ruislip Eagles and Newham Flames which ensured the team would go to Turkey full of confidence that they would put on a good show and learn from the experience.
Nervous in the build-up to their match with favourites Iceland, England U18s found the opening ten minutes a struggle but came to terms with their surroundings and were 12 down. The first half performance showed the side still had plenty to learn to replicate the athletic ability of their opposition to perform for 30 minutes.
21-9 down at the break, England battled back in the second half and stemmed the flow of goals somewhat, losing out 38-20.
The hosts Turkey were up next and the crowd were right behind them. The noise was deafening but this only raised the morale of England who lead 8-6 in the first 15 minutes before Turkey dominated the end of the half as England realised again elite athletes must last every minute!
Once again England regularly found the back of the goal, this time on 23 occasions with ten coming from hot prospect Sam Bedlow (16). Ben Tyler (18) marshalled the defence and David Klaening continued to inspire with ten goals in a match they eventually lost only 36-23.
And England raised their game even more for the final match against Moldova, which was tight throughout with no side ever leading by more than two goals.
Team Manager Tom Smith said: “There were nerves and the odd technical error, but when you have squad members coming off the bench for their first taste of the action and scoring from ten metres - as was the case with Daniel Bright - and the desire of Tom Kelsall with his knee heavily strapped, and the new kid on the block Bryn Edwards defying belief of all his team mates with a hip shot into the top left, there was a sense of belief that maybe England could do it.”
England ran out narrow 29-27 winners, with Klaening finishing as top-scorer in that match with six goals, while Bedlow adding five and Clark 4.
Overall in the three matches, Bedlow was top scorer with 20 while Klaening added 19.