Leicestershire & Rutland claimed a historic first win at the English Boys’ County Finals after a day of drama at Furness Golf Club in Cumbria.
The Midlands champions only reached the 2022 national finals by virtue of a countback victory at the regional qualifier. But after a 5-4 win on day one against Gloucestershire and a 5.5-3.5 defeat on day two against Yorkshire, a 6-3 victory against Kent on the final day of the round robin event was enough to seal the glory for the team in red and black.
If the regional qualifier had been a close shave, then it was only a prelude to the real drama on the Cumbrian coast. In the end, the winning margin over Gloucestershire was slender. Having tied Gloucestershire on match points (two wins apiece), Leicestershire and Rutland prevailed on account of winning just a half a game point more over the three days than their nearest rivals (14.5-14).
The moment which clinched the title for Leicestershire & Rutland came when captain Ethan Bell halved his match on the 18th green with Kent’s Charlie Reynolds. Watched on by the Gloucestershire team who knew what was at stake, Bell made a steady par to ensure Leicestershire and Rutland had secured the 5.5 points in the win against Kent that was needed to climb to the top of the table.
Team manager Dave Deacon was thrilled to make history with his group of lads. He said: “I’ve got to start by saying what a fantastic week we’ve had. We’ve come to our place which is way out of our depth regarding the course – playing links golf. We made it to these finals last year but didn’t finish the job off. In the 120-year history of our county, none of the teams has ever won a major finals so the lads today have done Leicestershire proud.”
The final day started with all four teams level on match points and the destination of the title anyone’s guess. The format for each match was three morning foursomes followed by six afternoon singles. At one point in the early afternoon it looked as if Yorkshire were in pole position to claim their tenth title at this level. But when Gloucestershire fought back in key games involving Ash Millington, Milan Reed and Ed Fry, the tide turned and the south west champions posted a 5-4 victory.
The destiny of the title still lay in Leicestershire & Rutland’s hands. They knew that if they could win their match against Kent with 5.5 points or more then they would be champions either through game points or as a result of the head-to-head result against Gloucestershire. Spurred on by England international Frazer Jones who led the way with an 8&7 victory over Jack Swift, the Midlands champions took the spoils.
In the end the deciding factor was game points – the half earned by William Plant in the final game against Kent’s Lucas Dennison proving crucial in determining the way in which Leicestershire & Rutland got over the line. Gloucestershire finished the week as runners up, with Yorkshire third and Kent in fourth spot.
Leicestershire and Rutland 5-4 Gloucestershire
Kent 5-4 Yorkshire
Leicestershire and Rutland 3.5-5.5 Yorkshire
Gloucestershire 5-4 Kent
Leicestershire and Rutland 6-3 Kent
Gloucestershire 5-4 Yorkshire
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