Nottinghamshire completed a victory march in the women’s English Counties Championship when they won their fifth and final match by 8-1 today at Frilford Heath in Oxfordshire
Yesterday, they secured the title when their fourth win put them out of reach of the other five regional finalists. Today, they celebrated their successful return to County Finals after an absence of 15 years.
“We really did want to finish with a win, the whole team wanted it,” said Nottinghamshire captain Kathryn Horberry. “It’s absolutely fantastic.”
Their final opponents were Essex and they conceded just one foursomes match to the pairing of English U14 champion Lily Humphreys and Emily Irons. The Notts points were scored by the partnerships of Emma Howie and Carol Houghton and by Lauren Spray with Esme Hamilton.
The singles were a clean sweep for the champions, represented this afternoon by Rachel Boulton, Emily Lyle, Laura Morris, Emma Howie, Emma Newlove and Lauren Spray
Their win underlined their strength in depth as a team – and completed a superb week for Lauren Spray who had a 100 per cent winning record, with a perfect nine out of nine.
Meanwhile, Sussex won the battle for second place with a late charge in the week. The team – who were playing at County Finals for the first time since 2011 – won their first match but then suffered two defeats. However, they climbed the leaderboard with great determination over the last two days, beating Essex yesterday and then defeating Buckinghamshire 6-3 today.
They had an anxious wait to find out if they’d done enough, but when Lancashire and Gloucestershire halved today, they were confirmed as runners-up.
“We were really gunning for second place,” said Sussex captain Sue Todd. “The whole team were really motivated and very determined.
“We are really pleased because this is the highest we have ever been placed. We changed our whole coaching system and it’s been a year’s work to get here – that’s what it takes. We’ve got fantastic team spirit and our team manager Hannah Ralph has made an enormous input.”
Sussex claimed two of the three foursomes and four singles, turning a series of tight games into wins – and giving a fine send-off to team member Paula Carver who announced her retirement from county golf after 21 years.
However the final placings all hinged on the last match on the course between Lancashire and Gloucestershire. A win for either team would have pushed Sussex down the order but the match was halved, leaving Lancashire in third place and Gloucestershire in fourth.
The South West champions made all the early running when they won 2½ points from the three morning foursomes. But in the afternoon it was Lancashire who called the shots with wins from Beth Garton, Eloise Healey, Georgia Coughlin and Nicola Rawlinson.
1 Nottinghamshire 10pts
2 Sussex 6pts
3 Lancashire 5 (23 games won)
4 Gloucestershire 5 (20.5 games won)
5 Buckinghamshire 2 (17.5 games won)
6 Essex 2 (15 games won)
Captions: The Nottinghamshire team with the trophy. Image © Leaderboard Photography.