- England start title defence strongly with win over Wales
- Ireland signal intent with victory over Scotland
England is on course for a fourth consecutive Boys Home Internationals victory after an excellent start in the first day’s play at Ashburnham, Wales.
However, Ireland signalled a strong intention to win the match for the first time since 2013 with a good opening start to the 91st gathering of the best juniors from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
On a blustery day on the Welsh coast when intermittent, often heavy, showers affected play, the English team dominated the home nation with an 11 ½ –3 ½ victory. Ireland’s win over the Scots wasn’t as emphatic but they still ran out comfortable 10-5 winners.
England started like defending champions by racing to a 4½–½ victory over the Welsh in the opening foursomes. Only the English pair of reigning English Amateur champion Conor Gough and Robin Williams did not record a victory. They halved with Welsh pair Archie Davies and Dylan Thomas.
However, the remaining four English pairings notched up points. Joseph Pagdin, the highest ranked player at 30th on World Amateur Golf RankingTM, paired with Barclay Brown for the largest margin of victory, 6&4 over Bryn Thomas and James Ashfield.
England rested Gough for the afternoon singles but had little trouble defeating the hosts. They looked like dominating the 10 singles when they added another four points from the opening contests without any of the matches going to the 18th.
Pagdin set the tone with a 3&2 win over Davies in the first match out before Williams (5&4), Max Hopkins (5&3) and Brown (4&3) eased to comfortable wins. Wales fought back in the middle of the order to emerge with a modicum of respect. The Welsh trio of Dylan Thomas, Bryn Thomas and Connor Owen earned Wales’s only full points. It wasn’t enough to withstand one of the strongest English Boys teams ever assembled for the Boys Home Internationals. England took that session 7-3.
Strength in depth
“It’s a really talented group of boys,” England captain Stephen Burnett said. “It’s as deep an English team as we’ve had in a long time. We’ve got some really good performers at the top end and the lads behind are pretty close too, so we’ve got depth through the order.
“We got off to a dream start in the foursomes this morning. The score probably flattered us a little bit. But the start allowed us the platform to build on in the singles. We lost our way a little bit in the middle of the order this afternoon, so we might look at changing things tomorrow a little. It’s a great start but we’ve got work to do.”
Wales captain Chris King said, “England is a strong team but I don’t think we gave a great account of ourselves this morning. We were hoping to do a lot better, but we got off to a bad start in the foursomes and left ourselves too much to do in the singles. It won’t take a lot to gee these lads up because they’re a good bunch. I expect them to bounce back. They’re a talented bunch, but I just think they got a bit star struck by the England team this morning and didn’t perform.”
Ireland start well
There wasn’t much to separate Ireland and Scotland in the opening foursomes as Ireland emerged with a 3½ –1½ victory. Only one hole settled three of the five matches, with Ireland winning two.
Irish pair Max Kennedy and Josh Mackin had the biggest margin of victory with a 5&4 victory over Liam Waldron and Cameron Gallagher. Irish duo Aaron Marshall and Joshua McCabe halved with Ruben Lindsay and Cameron Adam.
The two teams started fairly evenly in the first singles matches. The teams split the first four matches, with Scotland winning the fifth match. However, Ireland then dominated the bottom of the order. The Irish won four of the last five matches, with only one match halved. Nairn’s Calum Scott ensured Ireland didn’t sweep the bottom half of the singles draw by coming back from four down with five to play to earn a half point. Scott, whose elder brother Sandy is in the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup squad, holed a 10-foot par putt on the 18th to finish all square with Mackin.
“We have a strong 11 and we play right down to the end,” Irish captain Alasdair Gibson said. “We were strong at the tail, but we knew that and that made the difference today.
“We did pretty well in the foursomes. Getting three and a half points was more than we looked like getting early on. We got as much as we could have got out of the foursomes and that set us up for the singles. We got two out of the top four singles matches which was a reasonable return, and then the bottom guys came through. The trick now is to make it work tomorrow too.”
Scott Gibson, Scotland captain, said, “It was changing constantly this morning. One minute it looked like we were going to go one up at lunchtime, and then it looked terrible. A couple of games switched completely last the three holes. It was pretty tight this morning, and this afternoon was less tight. Early on it looked pretty tight but then Ireland grabbed a few four ups, three ups, and that’s difficult going into the back nine.
“Ireland is a good team. They’ve got good strength in depth, which is challenging. We’re playing England tomorrow so the boys never really need much encouragement to be up for that, but we’ll have a wee chat about what we need to do to be better tomorrow. It’s a new day and they’re all good players, that’s why they’re here.”
England take on Scotland tomorrow with Wales facing Ireland.
Full scores here.