Costa Ballena Octagonal: England suffer final pain in Spain

England’s men were edged out by hosts Spain in today’s final of the Costa Ballena Octagonal Championship.

The defending champions had high hopes of repeating their win from 2020 – the last time this eight-team international event was staged.

However, a strong Spanish side came through to win the match 6-3 and take the title.

Sam Bairstow and Jack Bigham and Arron Edwards-Hill and Olly Huggins halved their morning foursomes as Spain took a 2-1 lead into lunch.

Spain then turned the screw to win four of the afternoon singles and claim their 11th title on home soil.

Bairstow and Huggins supplied points for England from the singles, but it wasn’t enough to turn the match on its head.

Lancashire’s Jack Brooks (pictured below) had high hopes of defending the title with his England mates. Alongside Edwards-Hill from Essex and Yorkshire’s Bairstow, Brooks had won in the pouring rain two years ago.

It wasn’t to be.

He said: “We gave it everything, but it wasn’t good enough to beat a very talented Spain side.

“Our preparations were spot-on all week and we played well as a team to win the group matches.

“The conditions were tough, quite windy, for the final and we just came up against a good Spain side that deserved it on the day.”

It was a tough end to a terrific week for the England squad led by selector Paul Williams and coach Paul Ashwell.

The efforts of Brooks, Edwards-Hill and Bairstow chasing a second title combined with those of Hertfordshire’s Bigham, Huggins from BB&O and Gloucestershire’s Jack Cope, couldn’t earn England a seventh win in the tournament’s 21-year history.

England had arrived at the final after back-to-back wins in the group stages.

Due to Holland’s late withdrawal, England sat out the first day’s play and made the most of the practice facilities at the venue just north of the port of Cadiz.

Certainly, when England made their bow on day two against France, there was no evidence of rustiness.

The pairings of Bairstow and Bigham and Brooks and Cope secured points in two of the three morning foursomes.

A 6.5-2.5 win was recorded when Edwards-Hill, Bigham, Brooks and Huggins won their singles with a half point supplied by Cope.

England’s second group match was a clash with Ireland – the team England defeated in the final of 2020.

Once again, the double act of Bairstow and Bigham put the first point on the board and that was followed by another from the pairing of Edwards-Hill and Huggins.

A comprehensive 7-2 win was sealed thanks to a run of five wins out of six in the afternoon singles – Edwards-Hill, Bigham, Brooks, Huggins and Cope all notching points.

The two group wins teed up the clash with Spain – who had shown formidable form themselves to top their section thanks to thumping wins against Germany and Portugal and a drawn match with Italy.

Sadly, for England the hosts continued their rich vein of form by proving too strong in both sessions and ran out deserved winners.

There was, however, plenty for a new-look England team, starved of international competition due to Covid-19,  to build on ahead of European, World and Home International matches later in the year.

Bigham and Huggins (pictured above) both earned four and a half points from six matches to finish the week as England’s joint top scorers.

  • For full details of the week’s scoring, click here