Handball team save best for last

Great Britain men's Olympic handball adventure is over after their preliminary stage campaign came to an end, but they saved their best until last in a valiant 41-24 defeat to reigning silver medallists Iceland.

Defying their six-year infancy as a handballing nation, Team GB produced their best-ever display in the first half to match the Scandinavians, before falling away badly after the break.

Although ultimately it was another thumping loss, which meant they were whitewashed in Group A after heavy reverses in their first four matches, it was a performance in part that gave great hope for the future and fittingly they left the arena to a reception worthy of gold medallists.

Iceland were 5-2 up after seven minutes, though two thundering goals from Steven Larsson reminded everyone of his star quality and when Ciaran Williams and Mark Hawkins had thrown in, the scores were tied at 6-6 after 11 minutes.

Iceland gained the upper hand with three successive efforts, but Larsson and Robin Garnham goals kept the deficit down to three as Team GB were enjoying their best spell of the tournament. It got even better as some fine saves from Bobby White and three unanswered goals saw them trail by just 13-12 after 20 minutes.

Larsson was on fire and threw in two more thunderbolts to keep the deficit at one until back-to-back goals from Iceland gave them an 18-15 half-time lead. However, another Larsson shot and a second of the day for Chris Mohr reduced the deficit to two as Team GB dared to dream, but five unanswered Iceland goals put them seven ahead.

Mohr was able to break that run, but the level of performance had dropped considerably and Iceland soon opened up a 10-goal lead.

From that point it was all about Team GB soaking up their final 15 minutes in the Copper Box and although goals were going in regularly at the other end, efforts from Gawain Vincent, John Pearce and Chris McDermott were cheered as loudly as any others.

Iceland, who will go on to bigger and better things in the tournament, ran away with it in the final quarter to take some respectability away from the scoreline, but the home crowd did not seem to care one jot as they were informed of another gold for Team GB in the equestrian.

The handballers were never going to be medal contenders in this competition, having just six years of experience under their belts, but with the reception they got at the end of the match, it would have been easy to think they had added a gold to Team GB's tally, which somehow seemed a fitting reward for their efforts in getting here.