On another day of drama and intrigue, Ireland pipped Belgium by a slim one-fault margin to win the second leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 2 series in Drammen, Norway yesterday. When the best eight of the 13 competing nations returned for the second round it all came down to the last man into the ring, Irish army captain Geoff Curran (37), to decide the result, and it was like walking a tight-rope.
He could afford a single mistake, but an additional time fault would draw his team level with the crack Belgian side, and any more than that would see victory slip from Ireland’s grasp. So when his 13-year-old gelding, Ringwood Glen, put a toe in the water a tense silence descended on the arena.
“I had a feeling that I might have been in the water and I knew I was tight enough on time, but I kept the same plan of doing eight strides down to the last fence. It worked in the first round and thankfully again in the second, but I didn’t plan on being quite that tight to the time allowed,” said Captain Geoff Curran of Team Ireland.
Crossing the line with just 0.21 seconds to spare he clinched it however. And it was a gutsy result for the side that was already in the lead at the halfway stage despite a shaky start when Alexander Butler (Hallowberry Cruz) retired at the triple combination, but bolstered by solid performances from Cameron Hanley (Quirex) and Mark McAuley (Utchan de Belheme).
The experienced Belgian foursome of Olivier Philippaerts (H&M Legend of Love), Niels Bruynseels (Gancia de Muze), Pieter Devos (Dream of India Greenfield) and Gregory Wathelet (Coree) were firm favourites to win this leg of the seven-round series, but 17 faults left them lying in a surprising sixth place after the first round. They re-grouped with only four to add second time out, but couldn’t overtake the fighting Irish when finishing with 21 faults.
Team France lined up third with 24 faults, bolstered by the only double-clear of the entire competition from anchor partnership Alexis Deroubaix and Timon d’Aure. Neither Ireland nor France were competing for points yesterday however as they both belong in the Europe Division 1 series, so Belgium maintains the lead in Division 2.