On the weekend 13th/14th August, Auckland Region Handball hosted the first official New Zealand Club Championships.
Six men teams participated and fought out over the weekend the New Zealand Champion.
The Vikings men team was in the pool with Auckland City HC and Spartanz HC, while the other pool consisted of Auckland Pirates HC, Victoria University HC and the South Island Squad.
On the first day (Saturday, 13th August), the Vikings played their pool games with the first game versus Auckland City HC (ACHC). This club dominated the majority of tournaments over the last 3 years and therefore was probably the favorite to become NZ Champion.
The game itself was a nail-biter in which both teams fought hard and showed great Handball. Though the Vikings seemed to be able to minimize ACHC’s feared fast breaks and on the other side found consistently holes in their defense to score. In the last 5 minutes the Vikings even managed to extend their lead and won with 36:31.
The second game was versus the Spartanz HC, a well known Wellington based club, that the Vikings already faced during the Wellington Regionals.
The game itself was not as high class as the Vikings’s first game but the team was clearly dominating the opposition and ensured their place in the final by winning 40:31.
On the second day (Sunday, 14th August), both pool winners were facing each other to play for the New Zealand Club title. The winner in the other pool was the old Wellington rival Victoria University Wolves HC, who ensured teir place in the final winning against the South Isladn Squad and against the second Auckland base club team, the Auckland Pirates HC.
As both teams know each so well there was a lot of tension in the air, even before the game started. The Vikings team though managed to fire up immediately and build a 5:1 lead in the initial minutes of the game.Of course the Wolves were fighting back, after all this game decides the NZ Club champion and the Wolves recently lost the Wellington title to the Vikings. At halftime the Wolves were leading 19:16 and the Vikings took a chance to regroup during halftime.
With the start of the second half, the audience saw now a very focused Vikings team who tightened up their defense and played great team handball in offense, especially creating good scoring opportunities for their wing attackers. On the other side the Wolves struggled a little bit with the offensive defense of the Vikings which were focused on limiting the activities of the Wolves two back players.
In that first span of the second half the Vikings turned the score around so they were up 29:24 with 13 minutes to go. At that time it was clear – on and off court – that this game isn’t over yet. Some unlucky executions in the Vikings attack and a few lapses in the defense were enough to shift the momentum back towards the Wolves, who capitalized from those mistakes to reduce to the Vikings lead to two goals (32:30) with 6 minutes to go.
Obviously this was now a thriller and the Vikings refocused and were able to play down the last few minutes containing the Wolves and keeping the lead . Final score 36:34.
A big thank you to both referees – Gaston Fuso and Herve Roy (both from Auckland) – who handled the pressure of a final very well and were also able to ensure the game was played hard but fair.