Visit www.saddletude.com for virtual coverage of the Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead, in association with Horse & Hound Online.

It was Ireland in the driving seat once again in the Coyle-Hamilton-sponsored Samsung Nations Cup at Hickstead.

But it was a close-run thing, as the competition went to the wire, with the last rider in the competition, Germany’s Rene Tebbel, having to produce a fast clear to stop the European Champions’ winning run. Rene set sail on his super stallion, but the planks fell, leaving the team from the Emerald Isle, which included three of the European-winning squad, ahead by just one fence.

Afterwards, chef d’equipe Tommy Wade and his quartet of Peter Charles (Corrada), Cian O’Connor (Waterford Crystal), Kevin Babington (Carling King) and Dermott Lennon (Liscalgot) agreed that it was an overall team effort, with no one rider standing out.

Peter also praised Bob Ellis’s course, saying: “When we walked it, I thought it was really small, but it was very technical and produced the right result – at least as far as we’re concerned!”

Britain’s team of Di Lampard (Abbervail Dream), Mark Armstrong (Elise), Scott Smith (Cabri D’Elle) and Michael Whitaker (Virtual Village Prince Of Wales) had a disappointing day. Lying sixth at halfway, with Scott producing the best round after four faults at the middleof the penultimate combination, they improved one place second time around. This was thanks to a fighting four-faulter from Mark and a magnificent clear from Michael, which left chef d’equipe Michael Bullman reflecting on what might have been.

Itwas not all doom and gloom for Michael Whitaker, who earlier in the day jumped a fantastic round to win his second major class of the show on Virtual Village First Samuel.

But the writing was already on the wall at 8am in ring two, when Dermott Lennon’s speed victory on the good Cavalier mare, Garronturton Lady, gave an omen of things to come.