By Jay Bayford
Hopes of five in a row were left in tatters last night as Ireland surrendered their four-year grip on the Home Internationals following a 8.5-6.5 defeat by England at Conwy.
The winner-takes-all showdown on the north Wales coast was perfectly poised after the morning foursomes yesterday with the sides deadlocked at 2.5-2.5 heading into the singles.
However, John Carroll’s side saw the title slip from their grasp with England edging the afternoon singles 6-4 to snatch their trophy away.
After a tight foursomes, Robin Dawson — who will now turn professional — was unable to end his amateur career the way he wanted after losing by two holes to Mitch Waite in the top singles match.
Conor Purcell suffered a 7&6 reverse against Andrew Wilson. Despite wins for Mark Power, Peter O’Keeffe, Ronan Mullarney and Tiarnan McLarnon, defeats for Caolan Rafferty, James Sugrue, Alex Gleeson and Robbie Cannon sealed Ireland’s fate.
Despite the defeat, Ireland’s McLarnon ended the tournament with six points from a possible six.
Scotland took third spot after an 8-7 victory over hosts Wales — who finished as wooden spoonists.
Elsewhere, Luke Donnelly and Neil O’Briain are safely through to the second stage of European Tour qualifying school. The Irish duo were among 21 players to progress from the first stage event at The Players Club in Bristol yesterday to move a step closer to earning their tour card for 2019.
However there was disappointment for Brian McElhinney and Joe Dillion who both ultimately missed out in Bristol despite making the 54-hole cut — as did Michael McGeady and Colm Moriarty at the corresponding event at Fleesensee in Germany.
The first stage continues next week with events at Stoke-by-Neyland in Suffolk and Ebreichsdorf in Austria.
There are eight first stage events before the second stage, which takes place simultaneously at four Spanish venues between November 2-5. The third and final stage, a gruelling six-rounder, takes place at Lumine between November 10-15.
Meanwhile Wu Ashun fired a second-round 66 at the KLM Open to open up a three-shot lead over England’s Jonathan Thomson in Holland.
The Chinese held a one-shot advantage after day one in Spijk and carded seven birdies and two bogeys to get to 12 under, although Thomson threatened to overshadow him with a brilliant birdie run.
The 22-year-old holed a 40-foot putt on the 10th and then made six birdies in a row to turn in 28 and raise hopes of a first round of 59 in European Tour history.
Thomson - at six foot nine, the tallest player in European Tour history - found the hazard on the first and a bogey stalled his momentum, eventually coming home in level par 35 to sign for a 64.
After losing in a play-off in Denmark recently, Thomson is edging closer to keeping his place on Tour for next season, quite an achievement for a rookie who battled leukemia for five years as a child.
“I am hitting some great form and playing well, my confidence is also getting higher and higher and that’s all that matters to me at this part of the season,” he told europeantour.com.
Pádraig Harrington is eight shots off the lead after a 70 yesterday while Paul Dunne missed the cut.