After being level on points after the first two days, the two teams traded blows throughout the final day as they tried to secure an overall lead. In the end it went down to the last match left on the course: Irelands Barry Anderson, having led from early on in his match against Englands Max Smith, held his nerve to hole a putt on the 17th to win his match 2&1 and secure The R&A Trophy for Ireland.
Alan Dunbar, Irelands captain, summed up the mood. Were absolutely delighted. It was so tight out there. We knew we had to start well, which we had failed to do in the past and we did that in the foursomes this morning.
It was a class start and the lads were brilliant. It was a concern when we lost the first two matches, but Reeves match was big and that point made all the difference.
Reeve Whitson, from neighbouring club Mourne, who plays his golf over the Royal County Down links where his father is the head professional, hit his approach at the 17th to a foot to move one-up, and then split the fairway at 18 before having the match conceded by Englands Adam Myers who could only find a bush from the tee.
Absolutely fantastic, said Whitson. Im just so pleased to have finally won it and to have won my matches as well. I’m delighted. My dad didn’t really say anything to me before the final just to enjoy myself, that’s what everyone said and I did.
England had faced a two-point deficit after the morning foursomes matches, but captain Tommy Fleetwood led by example as he eased passed his Irish counterpart Alan Dunbar 5&3. And when his teammates Gary King and Eddie Pepperell registered wins over Luke Lennox and Chris Selfridge respectively, England had taken the momentum and a one point lead.
Ireland needed to hit back, and did so emphatically as Chris Drumm beat the previously undefeated Jonathan Bell by 8&6, the biggest victory margin of the week, and Reeve Whitson beat Englands Adam Myers by two holes. Garth McGee then secured a 2&1 win over Tom Lewis that was immediately cancelled out as Englands Tom Boys beat Richard ODonovan by the same score.
Englands Stiggy Hodgson then beat Paul Dunne on the 15th to take the match to 6 1/2 points each, and it went to 7 7 when Irelands Garth Boyd halved his match with Darren Renwick, in the process becoming the only player to stay unbeaten throughout the week. That left Barry Anderson the honour of closing out Irelands first win at the event in over a decade.
Throughout the first two days, it had looked too close to call. Ireland started off with a loss in their opening foursomes match of the week, going down 3 2 to a strong Scotland team. But the host nation came back strongly in the afternoon singles to win 8 1/2 6 1/2, and ensure that they were still in with a chance to win The R&A Trophy.
The Irish continued that excellent golf against the Welsh team on day two. They edged the foursomes 3-2 before adding a dominating performance in the singles to wind up 10 5 winners. That put them on the exact same points total as England overall, both sides having scored 18 1/2 points out of the possible 30 in their opening two matches, and set up the deciding final day encounter with England.
For their part, England started slowly in their opening foursomes against Wales on day one, but soon found their stride. That afternoon, they turned the two-point deficit into a two-point victory margin, winning seven of the 10 singles matches to win 8 1/2 6 1/2.
On the second day, however, England were ruthless in their dismissal of Scotland. An emphatic 4 1/2 1/2 victory in the morning foursomes made the afternoon singles almost a formality, and though Scotland tried their hardest, winning three of the first four games of the afternoon, the English players came through from there on. They dominated the bottom half of the singles draw to complete a 10 5 overall victory and earn their place in the deciding match against Ireland.
The Welsh team played some excellent golf through the week. They got off to a perfect start on day one by beating England 3 1/2 1 1/2 in the opening foursomes matches, and it looked for a while as if they might cause an upset against the defending champions. Yet it was not to be: a heavy defeat in the singles came in the afternoon, followed by another heavy defeat at the hands of Ireland on day two. But Waless young team which included Rhys Pugh, the youngest player in the competition at just 14 years old showed its class on the final day to beat Scotland and take third place.
Scotland were victorious in this event two years ago, but this years team seemed to run into some of the best golf played throughout the week. A promising opening defeat of Ireland in the foursomes was overturned in the singles; and after coming within half a point of a whitewash in the foursomes against England on day two, their defeat became a formality. Though they battled hard against the Welsh team it was not enough, and the Scots won the wooden spoon.