A valiant Irish team had to settle for runner-up spot as England won the Boys Home Internationals for the third consecutive year, with a 100% record after defeating Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the round-robin competition at Royal Dornoch.
Ireland & England played out an exciting title decider on the third and final day of play on the North-East coast of Scotland with the defending champions running out 8-7 winners, to retain the trophy. England have now won the under-18 team event 17 times since 1996.
England 8-7 Ireland
England edged in front 3-2 ahead of the afternoon singles following a stirring series of morning foursomes. Irish duo Aaron Marshall and Mark Power were first to register a point after ending the unbeaten run by the English partnership of Conor Gough and Robin Williams. An impressive bogey-free round which included three birdies on the front nine ensured they had full control of the match and they closed out a 3&2 win on the 16th.
Harrison Arnold and Chris Knipes hit back for England by beating Allan Hill and David Kitt 4&3 which was followed by a win by one hole for Barclay Brown and Joe Pagdin over John Brady and Tom McKibbin.
The two other matches featuring Harry Goddard and Habebul Islam against Charlie Denvir and Max Kennedy and Matthew Freeman and Max Hopkins against Odhran Maguire and Luke O’Neill were halved to give England a slender one point advantage at the end of morning’s play.
The first singles match between Power and Williams proved to be a thrilling contest that ebbed and flowed throughout. Both players were in prolific scoring form with no less than eight birdies in the match but it was Power who eventually prevailed to pull Ireland level at 3-3 with a 2&1 win.
England edged in front again when Gough claimed a 3&2 victory over McKibbin. The turning point in the match came when the Stoke Park member won three holes in a row from the 7th, a lead that he would hold onto for the rest of the encounter.
Nevertheless, Marshall put Ireland back on parity at 4-4 shortly after when he confidently won his match against Brown 4&3.
Brady was left to rue missing out on a full point after letting slip a four hole lead against Pagdin. The English youngster rallied to win four out of five holes from the 13th and the match was halved after both players made par on the final hole.
Three crucial points were secured for England when Josh Hill beat Denvir 3&2, Arnold was victorious against O’Neill 2&1 and Goddard edged out Murphy by one hole meaning that the defending champions moved into a 7½-4½ lead and were guaranteed of winning the title.
Hopkins and Kennedy halved their match to seal the overall win for England after he increased their lead to an unassailable 8-5.
Ireland fought back to win the last two matches out on the course: Hill beat Freeman by one hole and Kitt sealed a 2&1 triumph against Knipes.
Alasdair Gibson, non-playing Captain, Ireland said, “We’re very disappointed. We knew England would be hard to beat and we went very close to winning there and it’s never great to lose such a close match. We should have got more points from some of the matches this afternoon, but that’s golf, and we’ll live to fight another day.”
“We seemed to have enough points on the board in the afternoon to go and win it but we’ve just come up short. Our congratulations to England, they’ve played very well and are always tough to beat. Maybe next time we will come out on top.”
While Stephen Burnett, non-playing Captain, England commented, “I’m really proud of the players. We knew that the biggest game of the competition would fall on the final day and it was a really tight match. Ireland were really strong contenders but the last few singles matches this afternoon went our way. All credit to our players, they pulled the result out of the hat.