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06.06.2016, 15:50◄ last page     

DOMESTIC LEAGUES: VELUX EHF Champions League surprise package Kristianstad defended their national title, while Bjerringbro-Silkeborg conquered Denmark for the first time

National champions of Europe – Men part 1: North-west

Most of the domestic leagues have come to an end and we now approach the draws of the 2016/17 European season. In six parts, the spotlight is shone on each of the national champions and their path to glory. The opening part consists of teams from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland and England.

First title for Bjerringbro-Silkeborg

Before a ball was thrown in the finals of the play-off, it was a fact that Denmark would get a new national champion with neither Silkeborg nor Holstebro having won the title before.

Regular season winners Holstebro reached their very first championship final.

As Silkeborg finished lower in the league than Holstebro, Silkeborg started at home, and the EHF Cup quarter-finalists placed one hand on the trophy at Jysk Arena.

After 60 minutes it stood 27:20 for the hosts but, as it turned out four days later, the team from the Lake Highland of Jutland had no reason to feel safe before travelling north-west for the second leg.

On several occasions in the return match Holstebro came within touching distance of Silkeborg´s seven-goal lead.

In a full Gråkjær Arena, Holstebro lead by six goals at 14:8 towards the end of the first half as well as 19:13 and 20:14 after the break.

However, Silkeborg managed to stop the downfall and reduce the deficit to one goal, 26:25 at the final buzzer.

With a 52:46 win on aggregate, Silkeborg lifted their first trophy in the club’s history.

Kristianstad defend their title

Last year, IFK Kristianstad became Swedish champions for the first time in 62 years.

This season, they copied that achievement, winning the championship for the second time in succession and against the same opponent as last year.

The Swedish championship is decided in just the final match, after the quarter and semi-finals are played as a best of five series.

This year, the final was played in the Malmö Arena on Sunday 22. May, and just like last year on Gothenburg, Kristianstad and Alingsås faced each other in the deciding match.

At this point, all similarities stopped.

Whilst last year’s final was a close affair with changing leads and a relatively narrow 28:25 win for Kristianstad, the team under Ola Lindgren left no doubt this time.

With a stunning 18:6 lead at half-time, Kristianstad eliminated any excitement about the result at an early stage and secured a convincing 27:18 win.

Arendal win the league again, Elverum the play-off

In Norway, like in Sweden, it was same procedure as last year.

For the second time in succession, ØIF Arendal won the league and could call themselves “Seriemester” – league champions.

Also for the second time in succession, they did not make it in the play-offs.

In fact, Arendal were sent out already in the quarter-finals, and once again, the final was a tussle between Elverum HH and Haslum HK.

Having finished lower than Elverum in the league, Haslum started at home, but did not get much out the home advantage, to say the least.

A 28:23 win for Elverum gave last season’s VELUX EHF Champions League participants an extremely good position ahead of the return match in Terningen Arena of Elverum.

Through another five goal win, 26:21 this time, they could celebrate winning the play-off for the fifth time in a row.

Haukar took the title again after going the distance

The championship finals in Iceland are played best out of five and this year all five matches were necessary in order to find the champion.

Haukar and Afurelding were the two hopeful teams in the final series, which was characterised by no less than four away wins.

Afturelding opened the series by winning 34:31 on Haukar´s home court, only to lose 28:25 in their own backyard.

In an extremely high-scoring third leg, Afturelding then won 42:41 away, only to see Haukar win by one goal as well, 30:29 in the fourth match.

This made a fifth and decisive match necessary, and for the first time did the visitors not prevail.

On home ground Haukar won 34:31 and claimed the championship.

Second title in a row for VIF

VIF Vestmanna can call themselves Faroe Island champions for a second consecutive season.

H71 came out on top in the league stage of the championship, but once again Vestmanna showed their credentials when it mattered most and won the the best of three match final series.

Red Boys end long wait

Red Boys Differdange hadhave been waiting for this moment since 1999 and after the tenth and last round of the league play-offs the wait was over.

The last game was a true final, as Kaerjeng were ahead by one point before their away match at Differdange and the game was a real thriller.

Three minutes before the end, the teams were level, which would have been enough for Kaerjeng, but a 3:0 run to make it 29:26 in front of more than than 1000 fans in the arena gave Differdange their seventh title after 1955, 1957, 1990, 1991, 1997, 1998 and 1999.

Farewell trophy for Lions coach Tijsterman after final thriller

After two brilliant seasons, defending the Dutch title was the last match for Monique Tijsterman as OCI Lions coach. After leading her team as only female coach in a Men’s European Cup competition to the group phase of the EHF Cup and after winning all domestic trophies in the previous two seasons, Tijsterman and the Lions could not agree on a new contract.

Like the year before, OCI Lions won the bi-national BeNe-League - but in their domestic league they needed a third match in the best-of-three series against Bevo to secure this trophy. After a clear 34:19 win in the first match, Lions were defeated 19:24 at Bevo.

The decider was a true thriller. Thanks to nine goals of Luc Steins, who will also leave the club, the Lions beat Bevo 28:26 and retained their title.

Deserved fourth trophy for Bocholt

Hubo Initia Hasselt finished runners-up behind Dutch side OCI Lions in the bi-national BeNe-League earlier this season and suffered the same fate in the domestic play-off finals against QubiQ Achilles Bocholt.

In contrast to their women’s side, who took the trophy in the identical final pairing. Bocholt had made the crucial step already in the first final, winning 41:27 on home court, followed by a 25:21 away win at Hasselt with Belgian international Bartosz Kedziora starring.

After the play-offs the roles had been different: Hasselt were on top by 15 points, while Bocholt were four points below. Bocholt won their fourth title and managed to end their final curse after losing the previous three finals.

Three on the trot for Dublin International

Dublin International took the Irish men's title for the third consecutive year with a 27:24 win over student side UCD.

UCD reached their second consecutive decider after defeating Astra in the semi-finals, but once again could not overpower the vastly experienced champions, who earlier in the season won the cup final against the club’s second team.

Rivals come close but cannot topple Glasgow

Glasgow HC won their second consecutive men's league, coming out on top of a tightly contested season. Four teams were in contention until the very end, but Edinburgh, Livingston and Tryst could not match the reigning champions.

The Glaswegians added the cup weeks later with a 36:31 triumph over East Kilbride.

London side reclaim the league

London GD men were crowned Super 8 champions, beating Olympia on goal difference, while Cambridge and last season’s champions Warrington finished 2 and 3 points behind respectively.

However, they could not claim the double as they were beaten by Warrington in the cup final.

TEXT: Peter Bruun, Björn Pazen, EHF / cor

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