Home Internationals: England claim trophy double after drama in Donegal

England’s joint men’s and women’s team snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on a dramatic final day in the Home Internationals at Ballyliffin.

A final score of 11-10 in favour of England allowed the 16-strong combined squad to pip the hosts to the inaugural R&A Trophy following earlier wins against Wales and Scotland.

In the fight for the historic Men’s Home International title, England also edged out Ireland to win the Raymond Trophy.

England was only denied a hat-trick of wins on countback – Ireland’s women pipping their rivals on game points after today’s match within a match ended in a 4.5-4.5 draw.

All three trophies were decided right at the death on a dramatic day of golf in County Donegal.

Incredibly, six of the 14 singles games went down to the final hole to highlight the fine margins between winning and losing at this level. England won two and halved four of those games – decisive moments that swung the series in England’s favour.

England Golf’s performance director, Nigel Edwards, said: “There were some exceptional performances today and the players can be proud of their efforts.

“At one point, it didn’t look as if it would be our day against a strong Ireland side.

“But the players dug deep and were able to grind out vital points and half points when it mattered most.

“I’m delighted with the effort from a joint squad that featured some new faces as well as players still eligible for junior golf who stepped up to the plate.

“To win the inaugural joint event is something that goes down in the record books and can never be taken away from this group of players.”

“They will only grow in stature as a result of challenges they have faced and overcome in the last three days.”

Ireland carried a 4-3 lead from the morning foursomes in to the afternoon singles.

The opening three points were gathered by the pairings of Sam Bairstow and Arron Edwards-Hill, Rachel Gourley and Lottie Woad, and Lucy Jamieson and Hannah Screen.

However, Ireland rallied to deny England any more joy in the four games left on the course.

That left England needing eight points from the 14 singles to win the new R&A Trophy and to stand a chance of success in the historic men’s and women’s individual events.

Midway through the afternoon singles, it appeared as if the hosts would be celebrating.

With most of the games on the back nine, the score predictor had Ireland 12-9 ahead.

Arron Edwards-Hill brought home half a point from the opening game against Peter O’Keefe.

Sam Bairstow then fought back from one down playing the last to earn a half with Mark Power.

Lottie Woad then sealed a crucial win on the 18th hole of her match with Kate Lanigan and John Gough also fought back to earn half a point against Liam Nolan.

Hannah Screen’s valuable win on the 17th hole appeared straightforward by comparison to other games on the course!

Olly Huggins took his point on the final green – a fine swansong to his England amateur career. And Josh Berry showed great maturity to beat the experienced Hugh Foley by a 2&1 margin.

Harley Smith and Jack Bigham added two more points while the decisive moment came in the match involving Rachel Gourley. The half point gained in the match with Sara Byrne ensured England got over the line by the smallest of margins.

England women’s captain Rebecca Hembrough added: “This group of players did not need any motivational words after this morning. They wanted to win. That is what they want to do when they play for England.

“They were fired up, no words were needed. To be trailing going into the singles was all that was needed really.

“If you look to the lads who went out first, Sam Bairstow and Aaron Edwards Hill. To do what they did in the foursomes (they won 3&2) and then go out in those first singles matches and just fight right to the end (they both halved their matches) that was a standout today.”

Hembrough, women’s performance manager at England Golf, also backed the format change which saw the men and the women play in a combined team for the first time.

She added: “From my perspective, it was fantastic for the women to share the same stage as the men. That has been a huge positive to come from this event.

“Yes it’s new, yes there have been some logistical challenges. But that aside, I can only see this as positive. They are all quality golfers. They are the best in the countries. It has been great to see them mix and compete together in a team environment.”

Main image: The R&A