England will meet defending champions Ireland tomorrow in a winner-takes-all battle for the title of Men’s Home Internationals champions at Moortown, Yorkshire.
If Ireland win it will be the first time in their history that they’ve held the Raymond Trophy for four years in a row. England, meanwhile, are seeking their first win since Ganton in 2013 – and their 37th outright victory.
The teams set up the showdown by both winning their matches today, Ireland defeating Scotland 10-5 while England beat Wales 9.5-5.5 – a scoreline which disguises the tremendous battle between the two sides.
England were wrong-footed in the foursomes, with Wales taking three of the five points and at one time, looked set to do even better.
However, a battling finish, featuring three of the team’s new caps, kept England in touch. Jack Gaunt and David Hague, who are both making their debut at this level, continued their 100 per cent foursomes record with a 3/1 win.
Then, the experienced Bradley Moore and new cap Jake Burnage came from one down after 15 to win on the last.
It was a huge morale boost for the team and they quickly built on it during the singles. Wales took an early lead in the top two matches, but the other eight England players were all ahead as they went through five holes. It looked even better when Gian-Marco Petrozzi clawed back his early deficit and reached the turn all square.
Before long England had their first point on the board, thanks to David Hague who polished off his opponent 8/6 when his putt to go five-under par on 12 was conceded. The score looked even healthier when Petrozzi and Dan Brown both won their games to edge England ahead. But that was the signal for Wales to pile the pressure back on.
Will Whiteoak and Todd Clements were pulled back to all square, Jack Gaunt and Bradley Moore fell behind and only Josh Hilleard and Jake Burnage were up.
But the pendulum swung back in England’s favour on the 18th green. The opponents of both Whiteoak and Clements had makeable putts which would have given a huge boost to the Welsh cause. However both missed and the English pair added their halves to the team tally.
Jake Burnage, playing as anchorman, made very solid progress at the back, closing out his game 5/4 and leaving the way clear for Hilleard (pictured top) to clinch the win on the 17th, watched by his delighted grandparents.
“I didn’t realise it was for the win, but when I saw the scoreboard on the 16th tee it looked like a halved match and so I knew my point was needed,” said Hilleard. “Going into the singles behind we needed to press and the guys have obviously done it. Everyone will be happy and ready for tomorrow.”
The overall result became more decisive when Jack Gaunt won the 18th to square his match and Bradley Moore won one-up.
Team captain Kevin Tucker again praised his new caps, remarking “They all collected points in the singles when the chips were down.
“Tomorrow will be a good game. Ireland are the strong favourites with a very experienced side but our young players are looking forward to the challenge facing them.”
Ireland made no mistakes today as they worked their way to their comfortable win. They had a 4-1 advantage after the foursomes and went on to win six of the 10 singles.
The defending champions hold a slender advantage over England in terms of games won, which will be in their favour should tomorrow’s match be halved.
Wales and Scotland will play-off for third place.
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