• England and Ireland wins sets up winner-takes-all clash
• Wales and Scotland to decide third place
England will face Ireland at Ashburnham in Wales to decide the winner of the 91st Boys Home Internationals in a rematch of the 2018 encounter at Royal Dornoch. England won the deciding match 8-7 last year, and Ireland is looking for revenge in Wales.
Glorious sunshine bathed Ashburnham in resplendent light and the rain that plagued the opening day stayed away. Conditions weren’t so tranquil, though. A stiff breeze off the sea made conditions hard for the best juniors in Great Britain and Ireland.
Scotland looks to bounce back
After losing the day one foursomes to Ireland 3½-1½, Scotland was hoping to rebound against a strong England team but the Scots pair of Connor McKinney and Callum Scott looked odds on favourites to lose to English Amateur champion Connor Gough and Robin Williams.
Gough began the match after being promoted to number two on the World Amateur Golf RankingTM with Williams moving up one spot to 85th. It seemed a mismatch considering McKinney is ranked 282nd while Scott has yet to gain a foothold on the WAGR table. Yet the Scottish pair upset the formbook with a 2&1 win.
Unfortunately for Scottish team captain Scott Gibson, it did not motivate his remaining eight players to victory. England swept the next four matches to take the session 4-1.
England prove too strong
Scotland bounced back at the top of the singles draw. McKinney went up against Gough again in the opening singles and ground out a well-earned halve.
Team-mates Gregor Graham, Ruben Lindsay and Calum Scott returned victories but Scotland only got one win from the remaining five singles. England took the session 5½-4½ for an overall 9½-5½ victory.
Stephen Burnett, English captain, said, “That was very close this afternoon. Too close. Thankfully we did well in the foursomes. We place a strong emphasis on foursomes because if you can get up in foursomes it gives you a really good head start and makes it so hard for the other side to come back. But Scotland came back at us, and that foursomes cushion allowed us to weather the Scottish challenge. They were very strong at the top of the order and the bottom half of our order came through and got vital points for us. We’re going to have another strong challenge tomorrow so we’ve got to go out there and try to win every point.”
“We gave England a wee scare in the singles,” said Scotland captain Scott Gibson. “It was looking close for a while. It would’ve been a great comeback after the foursomes but that’s when the damage was done, losing 4-1 in the morning. It’s very tough to come back from that against any team, especially a strong team like England. The boys done really well this afternoon. They got off to a good start, and it was good for the boys going out to see those blue numbers on the board. It was looking close for a while and then fell away a wee bit at the end, but I’m really proud of them for the fight they put up against such a strong English side. My message to them is to keep doing what they’ve been doing because they’ve actually been playing decent golf. The results just haven’t gone for them.”
Wales starts strongly
Wales made up for a poor opening day against England by getting off to a fast start against Ireland in the morning foursomes. After taking just a half point in foursomes against England the previous day, the Welsh defeated a strong Irish team 3-2 in the alternate shot format.
Dylan Thomas and newly crowned Welsh Amateur champion Archie Davies got the home side off to an excellent start with a 3&2 victory over Tom McKibbin and Luke O’Neill. Tom Peet and Sean David made it two out of two by beating Aaron Marshall and Joshua McCabe 4&3.
Ireland responded when Josh Mackin and Max Kennedy defeated Bryn Thomas and Lloyd Walters by the same score line. However, Reuben Bather and Connor Owen then ran out 4&3 winners over Fionn Hickey and Simon Walker to ensure Wales won the morning session.
Ireland bites back
The home side was looking to build on the momentum of the morning foursomes win but struggled in the opening two singles. The Irish quickly went ahead 4-3 when McKibbin led the charge with a one-hole victory over Davies. O’Neill threw in a 2&1 victory over James Ashfield. Hill was out in the sixth singles match but only needed to play 13 holes. He defeated David 6&5.
Peet and Bryn Thomas gave home supporters hope with respective halves against Marshall and Walker. Dylan Thomas defeated namesake Dylan Keating 4&3. However, Mackin ensured Ireland only needed on more point to defeat Wales when he ran out a 2&1 winner over Owen. The point duly came when Kennedy beat Bather 4&2. Ireland ended up winning 9-6.
Wales will now face Scotland to see who takes third place.
Alasdair Gibson, Ireland captain, said, “The first few singles matches this afternoon were very important. We were looking to get two points out of the top three and we got two and a half. We didn’t think losing 3-2 this morning was a big setback. It could easily have gone our way. So we knew we had the singles to come and we were quite confident. I think the key was we got off to a good start on the first hole, which is quite difficult. We won it five times this afternoon, halved two and lost three so the boys got off to a great start. That’s what you have to do against the quality of golf that’s on display here this week. We lost to England 8-7 last year so we’ll be looking to reverse that decision this year and take the trophy back to Ireland.”
Chris King, Wales captain, said, “The boys played really well this morning in foursomes. They responded really well after yesterday’s disappointment. We just didn’t close out the matches this afternoon. We were in quite good positions in a number of the games. It was a good performance, and there are a lot of positives. It’s just a shame we didn’t get over the line. The Irish lads played really well this afternoon. The top singles game was really key. We knew that could go either way and Ireland just edged it. The margins just didn’t quite go our way but it’s given us a lot of confidence. Hopefully we can finish it off tomorrow.”
It leaves England and Ireland to battle it out. England are favourites on paper to beat the Irish considering the 11-man side has three players in the World Amateur Golf RankingTM top 100 – Gough, Williams and Pagdin.
As history shows, international matches are not settled on paper. The tough Asburnham links will play a huge factor in who emerges as the top junior golf team in Great Britain and Ireland.