Defending champions open with a win as Scotland and Ireland finish all square

England began the defence of their Boys Home Internationals title with a convincing 10.5-4.5 win over Wales, while Scotland and Ireland shared the spoils in a typically competitive encounter on the opening day at Forest Pines in Lincolnshire.

Wales gave themselves a mountain to climb after labouring to a 4.5-0.5 defeat in the morning foursomes. And despite rallying in the singles, Derek Hughes’ side were worthy winners.

The unpredictability of match play can make for such an enthralling format and Ashton Turner’s (right) match against Otto Mand was a case in point.

Turner was four under through six to go five up on his Welsh opponent. However Mand responded with three birdies in five holes from the seventh and got back to just one down with five holes to play.

By the par five 17th, local favourite Turner had a two-foot putt to close out the match but missed and the encounter went to the final hole. The Kenwick Park player held his nerve to hole a four-foot par putt on the 18th to eventually win by one-hole.

“That was a tough, hard ride,” said a relieved Turner afterwards. “We had a better ball score of 12 under and I’m just pleased to come out with the victory.”  

“I don’t know what I was doing on 17, it was a moment of madness. Looking back, it’s the type of game you want in match play. Otto’s a great player and he came back and pushed me all the way.”

Wales, in recent years, have had a habit of making things difficult for opponents in the singles and Kyle Harman enjoyed a 4&3 win over England’s Jack Singh Brar, while Tim Harry denied Adam Chapman by one-hole in the top match.

Further down the order, Jack Davidson and Rhys Jones put points on the board for Wales with their respective wins against Robert Burlison (2-holes) and Jake Storey (3&2).

England’s other points came from Marco Penge, Bradley Moore, Ben Amor and Harry Ellis, while Haydn McCullen’s one-hole win over Thomas Williams sealed the overall team win.

“They were tight games this afternoon. Wales played very well and there was some great golf played. I’m pleased the boys have come through in the end,” said England captain Hughes, whose young side are attempting to win for the third consecutive year.

“We’ll have a little review about how it went today and make some decisions about who’s going to play tomorrow. That will be the most difficult bit because we have a good set of lads and they are all very capable.”

Ireland held a narrow 3-2 lead after the morning foursomes but there was always a sense this match would go to the wire – and so it did, to the final green in the final match.

Barrie Douglas’ Scotland side seized the early initiative in the singles and at one stage looked set to win. However, as long shadows spilled across the fairways at the day’s end and the pressure mounted, the outcome was a halved match. On reflection, it was a fair result but there were mixed feelings in both camps.

“We’ll look back on it as a match we might have won,” said Douglas. “Some of the matches were very close but nerves play a part coming down the stretch.”

While Douglas reflected on what might have been, his Irish counterpart Roy Archibald was simply relieved.

“There’s no doubt we used our get out of jail card today,” explained the Irish captain. “Scotland led in the top four matches and we looked dead and buried at one stage. But things happened in our favour on the closing holes and we were fortunate to get out with a halved match.”

The final act saw Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre play a fine approach into six feet at the 18th in his match against Alec Myles. The Irish teenager pulled his second at the par four and when he failed to get up and down the left-handed Scot secured the two-hole win as the overall result finished 7.5-7.5.

There were many talking points, not least the attempted comeback by Stuart Easton before Jack Walsh eventually prevailed for Ireland at the 18th. The Irish player had been four up before Easton put a run of five birdies together in the middle of the round to take the match to the 18th. Easton played a poor pitch and failed to make par and Walsh held his nerve to hole from eight feet for par and a one-hole win.

Sligo’s Sean Flanagan and Galway’s Ronan Mullarney also held their nerves at the 18th to halve their respective matches against Barassie’s Euan Walker and Lundin’s Niall McMullen.

Today’s results leave England in the driving seat and the defending champions will now take on Ireland, while Scotland play Wales on day two.