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England battle to Home Internationals victory

[if gte vml 1]><v:shapetype id="_x0000_t75" coordsize="21600,21600" o:spt="75" o:preferrelative="t" path="m@4@5l@4@11@9@11@9@5xe" filled="f" stroked="f"> <v:stroke joinstyle="miter"></v:stroke> <v:formulas> <v:f eqn="if lineDrawn pixelLineWidth 0"></v:f> <v:f eqn="sum @0 1 0"></v:f> <v:f eqn="sum 0 0 @1"></v:f> <v:f eqn="prod @2 1 2"></v:f> <v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelWidth"></v:f> <v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelHeight"></v:f> <v:f eqn="sum @0 0 1"></v:f> <v:f eqn="prod @6 1 2"></v:f> <v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelWidth"></v:f> <v:f eqn="sum @8 21600 0"></v:f> <v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelHeight"></v:f> <v:f eqn="sum @10 21600 0"></v:f> </v:formulas> <v:path o:extrusionok="f" gradientshapeok="t" o:connecttype="rect"></v:path> <o:lock v:ext="edit" aspectratio="t"></o:lock> </v:shapetype><v:shape id="_x0000_s1026" type="#_x0000_t75" alt="" style='position:absolute; margin-left:0;margin-top:0;width:375pt;height:221.25pt;z-index:251658240; mso-wrap-distance-left:7.5pt;mso-wrap-distance-top:7.5pt; mso-wrap-distance-right:7.5pt;mso-wrap-distance-bottom:7.5pt; mso-position-horizontal:left;mso-position-horizontal-relative:text; mso-position-vertical-relative:line' o:allowoverlap="f"> <v:imagedata src=""></v:imagedata> <w:wrap type="square"></w:wrap> </v:shape><![endif][if !vml][endif]England pulled out all the stops today to retain the women’s Home Internationals title in an intensely tight finale to the week at Royal Wimbledon.

The team produced a great singles performance to beat Ireland 5-4, but had to wait for the outcome of the other match, between Wales and Scotland, before they could be crowned champions.

At the start of the final day the title race was wide open. Ireland, with 1½ points from two matches, were front runners; but England and Scotland, with a point apiece, were also right in the hunt.

Ireland looked even stronger at lunchtime, after winning the morning foursomes 2-1. But England stormed out in the singles, led by Hollie Muse who won the first hole against the Irish star, Olivia Mehaffey, and was never behind, going on to win 5/4.

Sophie Lamb trailed for the first part of her match, but didn’t lose a hole after the fifth, got in front on the 14th and went on to win 3/1.

Inci Mehmet was three up with three to play but was taken to the 18th by her opponent, where she played the hole with textbook precision to claim her point.

Gemma Clews got in front on the third – and stayed there, extending her lead to five up after 11 holes and finally winning 4/2.

So England secured the point – but the championship wasn’t over. If Scotland beat Wales they would tie with England and the result would be decided on countback. However the Welsh, who had secured two points in the foursomes, won three of the six singles and held on to win 5-4.

England team captain Elaine Ratcliffe said: “I am very proud of the girls, it was a great result and I am so pleased for everyone concerned. A lot of people have put a lot of hard work into this.

“We had a really tough game today. They played nicely this morning, but were 2-1 down, and this afternoon it just felt good out there. Hollie won the first hole of her match and they all just took control from the start. They are a very young side but they showed what golfers they are becoming.”

This is England’s fourth win in the Women’s Home Internationals in five years. “It’s lovely to be a winning captain,” added Elaine, who played in three winning teams in 1995, ’96 and ’97.

On the first day of the tournament England beat Wales 5-4 while Ireland beat Scotland 6.5-2.5. On day two Scotland beat England 6-3 while Wales and Ireland halved.

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