Yorkshire take outright lead at County Finals

Rochelle Morris

Yorkshire moved into the lead at Women’s County Finals after they were the only outright winners on a day of close matches and tense excitement at Waterlooville in Hampshire.

The Northerners beat Surrey 5.5-3.5 while the day’s other two matches were halved, with Gloucestershire sharing the points with Norfolk, while Staffordshire grabbed a tied result against Buckinghamshire.

It means that after two days’ matches Yorkshire have 4pt from their two wins, Gloucestershire have 3pt, Surrey have 2pt and the other three counties have a point apiece.

Yorkshire set up their win with a clean sweep in the three foursomes, but Surrey battled back hard in the singles, winning 3½ of the six games. However, they couldn’t stop the 11-times champions as Curtis Cup player Rochelle Morris (image © Leaderboard Photography) and Megan Clarke delivered the necessary points and Hannah Holden squeezed a half out of the final game.

Morris had been 5up after 12 before losing the next hole to a birdie, but a solid par saw her safely home by 5/4 and she remarked: “I’m happy with how I played.” Clarke holed a long putt to close out her game 3/2 and Holden fought her way back from three down to halve.

“We made it!” said team captain Dawn Clegg. “It was a bit of a knee trembler this afternoon, but having looked at the other results we are pretty pleased.

“Moving into the lead is good, but every team we play is good and so we have to keep our heads down and keep at it.”

Buckinghamshire also pulled off a clean sweep in the foursomes and in the singles they came within touching distance of clinching a win – but Staffordshire definitely had other ideas.

Alice Koslowski won the top singles for Buckinghamshire, but Staffordshire’s Gina Wilkie snatched a half in the next game when she holed a 25ft birdie putt on the last. Olivia Raybould and Morgan Thomas added their points to Staffordshire’s tally, leaving the outcome to two of the team’s more experienced members.

First Jenny Rhodes, playing her third County Finals, produced a superb up and down with a pitch over trees to win one up. Then Debbie Warren, playing her sixth County Finals, parred the last to also win by one hole and confirm the overall halved result. “I’m absolutely chuffed to bits,” she said, while Jenny commented: “After a bad day yesterday and a bad start today this is very good.”

Staffordshire captain Julia Gaunt added: “It’s a fantastic result after this morning when we were three-nil down. But I had every confidence in my girls, I knew they would go for it.”

Buckinghamshire captain Phillipa Cook also found positives: “After yesterday’s loss, which was heavy and disappointing, I was very, very pleased with the way the girls came back this morning. We didn’t quite do it this afternoon but I’m very glad to have a half and Staffordshire fought very well, no doubt about it.”

Gloucestershire, who had a big win on the opening day, took the early advantage over Norfolk with a 2-1 lead after the foursomes.

But Norfolk came out battling in the singles. England girl international Amelia Williamson won the top match 4/3 and was soon followed by Ellie Brown who defeated another international, Bethan Popel, by 2/1, while Amy Taylor worked steadily to her 2/1 win. Meanwhile, Gloucestershire’s Alex Giles and Ebonie Lewis added points to their team’s account.

The crunch match proved to be the middle-of-the-order encounter between Gloucestershire’s Claudia Ovens and Norfolk’s Shelly Pleasance. Ovens went three up early on but Pleasance fought back to reach the 18th tee one up, then put her first drive out of bounds. When both players reached the green Ovens had a one-shot advantage and holed a fine putt to win the hole and finish all square.

“I’d lost 16 and 17 to go one down and I needed to win 18 for a half, which was quite crucial – but I didn’t really know how crucial it was!” said Ovens.

Gloucestershire’s captain Andra Knight added: “It was a very close match and a well deserved half for both teams – and played in a great spirit. It was a very exciting finish and Claudia is very calm under pressure.”

Norfolk captain Tracey Williamson was delighted with her team’s fightback. “It’s a superb result, a really good effort. Yesterday we were really close, now we’ve got a half and we’re gaining momentum. Perhaps tomorrow will bring a win.”

Tomorrow Norfolk play Staffordshire, Buckinghamshire play Yorkshire, and Surrey play Gloucestershire.

Click here for full scores