Irish win opening leg of Nations Cup
On a day when the formbook was turned on its head, Robert Splaine's side of Shane Sweetnam (Amaretto Darco), Billy Twomey (Romanov), Cian O'Connor (Larkhill Cruiser) and Cameron Hanley (VDL Southwind) produced superb jumping to finish with a two-fault advantage over Belgium. Hot favourites Germany had to settle for third spot.
The Irish were joint-second with the British at the half-way stage, carrying five faults after Sweetnam's single time penalty, single mistakes from Twomey and O'Connor and a fabulous clear from last-to-go Hanley which kept them in the game.
Belgium held the lead with four faults going into round two, despite the anchorman Jos Lansink retiring.
But, as round two unfolded, there were gasps of amazement when Belgian pathfinders, the 2010 Individual World Championshp partnership of Philippe Le Jeune and Vigo D'Arsouilles, blundered at the oxer.
As the British crumbled, however, the Irish stood firm with just single errors from both Sweetnam and Twomey. And when O'Connor produced a classy clear from Larkhill Cruiser -- a complete novice at this level, but a horse with little to prove following great results for the Meath rider in recent months -- then the Irish were clearly in with a chance.
Despite a disappointing second round from Hanley's horse, their final total of 13 put plenty of pressure on the last man into the ring, Belguim's 2006 world champion Lansink. But when his mare collected eight faults at the treble to bring his team's total to 15, it was a spectacular Irish victory.
Rafael Nadal made sure of retaining his world No 1 status for the French Open after cruising past Croat Marin Cilic 6-1, 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters yesterday.
Nadal showed no signs of the fever that had brought him to the brink of pulling out on Thursday in a typically clinical display, hammering the world No 23 to set up a semi-final against Richard Gasquet or Tomas Berdych.
World No 4 Andy Murray became the first British player in the tournament's professional era to reach the final four after beating German Florian Mayer 1-6 6-1 6-1.
KEN EGAN knocked out Obed Mbwakongo in the first round to ease Ireland into a 5-0 lead over Britain after the first five bouts of last night's Round Robin clash in Schwedt Oder, Germany.
Mbwakongo went down under a left to the body two minutes into the first frame and was counted out. Egan was 4-2 ahead at the time of the stoppage.
Michael Conlon, Tyrone McCullagh, Willie McLaughlin, Darren O'Neill fired Ireland into an unassailable 4-0 over Team GB with three bouts remaining before Egan took the early route victory.
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