The British team has won its fifth successive European Championships — which brings the gold medal tally to an incredible 18 since 1953 — and Pippa Funnell crowned an incredible year by show jumping clear to take the individual bronze medal on Nick and Barbara Walkinshaw’s Walk On Star.

Britain had four fences in hand over France, but it became dangerously close when Jean Teulere only had one down and Arnaud Boiteau jumped clear in contrast to William Fox-Pitt’s two fences down on Moon Man.

Leslie Law also surrendered his individual medal chance with a fence down, as did Mary King, and Karin Donckers lost her chance of becoming Belgium’s first individual medallist with a hairy eight-fault round.

Nicolas Touzaint brought the crowd to its feet with an outstanding pillar-to-post individual victory and became France’s second European champion, following Jean-Lou Bigot in 1993. Team gold continues to elude the nation, however, despite the best efforts of planning and some dashing cross-country performances. France were silver medallists in 2001, as well as at the last two World Games.

Sweden’s Linda Algotsson and the consistent home-bred Stand By Me rose up the order with their gutsy jumping performances to take individual silver – a repeat of the maths teacher’s result back in 1999 at Luhmuhlen on the same horse.

The Belgians, bronze medallists in 1999, took the same colour this time and have thus qualified for the Olympics, as have Ireland, fourth, and, in something of a form upset, Austria, fifth.

Sweden, Italy and Germany have failed to qualify and can only send individual riders. The Germans were prevented from completing as a team when Stefanie Thomson’s Smartfella could not be presented at the final inspection due to an injury which needed medication.

Final results

Teams 1, Great Britain, 147.60; 2, France, 160.20; 3, Belgium, 196; 4, Ireland, 247.4; 5, Austria.

Individual 1, Nicolas Touzaint/Galan de Savagere (FRA) 35; 2, Linda Algotsson/Stand By Me, 40.8; 3, Pippa Funnell/Walk On Star (GBR) 44.4; 4, Leslie Law/Shear L’Eau (GBR) 47.2; 5, Mary King/King Solomon lll (GBR) 49.4; 6, Karin Donckers/Gormley (BEL) 50.4; 7, Heidi Antikatzides/Michaelmas (GRE) 52.2; 8, William Fox-Pitt/Moon Man (GBR) 56; 9, Susanna Bordone/Ava (ITA) 56.6; 10, Arnaud Boiteau/Expo du Moulin (FRA) 58.6; 11, Cedric Lyard/Fine Merville (FRA) 62.4; 12, Sue Shortt/Just Beauty Queen (IRL) 63.4.