England crowned European Team champions
England took both titles on an enthralling final day of the ESF European Team Championships in Eindhoven, following a 2-1 win for the women against Wales and a 3-0 win for the men against France.
In the women’s final, fans were treated to an engrossing display in the opening tie as a high-intensity chess match developed between England’s World No.6 Sarah-Jane Perry and Wales’ World No.14 Tesni Evans.
In a thrilling first game, both players had game ball and good chances to win, with Evans eventually making the decisive breakthrough to take the first game 14-12 in 14 minutes.
The impressive Evans built on this momentum in the second and third games, taking a pair of 11-6 wins to hand Wales a vital lead.
England found the perfect response through second string Georgina Kennedy, with the World No.9 inflicting an 11-2 first game win over World No.19 Emily Whitlock, before levelling the tie with 11-6 and 11-8 wins.
In the decisive third match, England’s Lucy Turmel went in as the heavy favourite, with the 22-year-old World No.20 up against 37-year-old former World No.188 Stacey Gooding in a winner-takes-all encounter.
Sure enough, it was the Englishwoman who dominated, with Turmel taking the first game 11-4 before securing the championship for England with an 11-1 win in the second and an 11-2 in the third.
Speaking afterwards, Perry paid tribute to her teammates. She said: “On a personal note, although I’m actually a mother myself now, these guys are kind of my kids as well, in size and age! They’ve literally been amazing this week, all three debutants to this event.
“I think it’s fair to say they’ve all had a fantastic day and they’re definitely looking forward to the party later!”
Result: ESF Team Championships, Women’s Final
England 2-1 Wales
In the men’s final, just as with the women’s, the opening match was a thriller. France, who edged England to top spot in Group A on games won after a 2-2 draw on Thursday, made a strong start when Gregoire Marche took his opening two games against Adrian Waller.
Waller recovered spectacularly though, taking the third game 11-7 and saving two match balls in the fourth to level the tie with a 12-10 win.
Buoyed by his spectacular effort, Waller continued to attack in the fifth game, with Marche wilting as the Englishman gave his country a one-match win with an 11-6 win.
England consolidated their lead via the racket of Nathan Lake, with the World No.35 easing past World No.42 Sebastien Bonmalais 11-3, 11-3, 11-8.
If France were to stage a remarkable comeback, it would have to be a rescue act from ‘the French General’, Gregory Gaultier, with the French former World No.1 going up against England’s former World No.1 James Willstrop in an eagerly-anticipated clash.
After Willstrop took the first two games 11-8, 11-9, Gaultier handed France a lifeline with a hard-fought 11-7 win in the fourth game.
Willstrop, however, was able to shutdown any hopes of a comeback with a calm performance in the fourth game, as he delivered England’s second title of the day with an 11-7 win in the fourth game.
Speaking at the medal ceremony, Willstrop said: “I’ve played a lot of Teams over the years and I’m not going to get too sentimental, but [my team have] been a right laugh! The bench has been a sheer pleasure to be part of and [there was] awesome support at the end there. It was a really great moment personally and for our team and the girls were awesome supporting us and they’ve done great. It’s a great day for us and we’re really proud to be to be winning today!”
Result: ESF Team Championships, Men’s Final
England 3-0 France
Elsewhere, the Netherlands’ women’s team finished third in Division One after beating France 2-0, while the Scottish men’s team took the bronze medal in the men’s draw after a 3-1 win over Germany.
In Division Two, Spain’s women took the title after a 2-1 win against Switzerland, while the Swiss men beat Hungary on games won after a 2-2 draw.