Frenchwoman Eugenie Angot withstood excruciating pressure in a thrilling jump-off to take the fourth leg of the Samsung Super League in Rotterdam.
The 33-year-old’s performance on Cigale du Thallis stole the show and put France back in its familiar place at the top of the leader board.
France and Belgium both finished on impressively low scores of 4, with three double clears (Laurent Goffinet, Jean Marc Nicholas and Ludo Philippaerts) between them.
The tied result required a jump-off to decide the final positions, but the Belgian Philippaerts, who was first to go, seemed to have used up all his luck in the first rounds and an unlucky mistake gave France pole position.
“I began quite fast over the first five fences, but I was careful at the combination and the last fence was a triple bar at which I knew Cigale would have no problem so I took it slower there because I just knew I was having a clear round,” a delighted Eugenie explained after she had clinched the winning spot.
Ireland’s show jumpers bounced back from a week of political drama. Tommy Wade accompanied the team on what could be his last jaunt as Chef d’Equipe, but ironically, the team fared their best in the series so far.
“I love days like this,” Wade said. “This sport is about giving it everything you’ve got when the chips are down and my team did just that today – I’m proud of them.”
Michael Whitaker got England off to a good start in the first round. He produced one of only four double clears of the day on Portofino. But in the second round, the team failed to keep it together, with Robert Smith’s score of four faults and Robert Whitaker’s eight faults leaving Britain in fourth place on a total of 12.
The Dutch team had been widely expected to rule the roost on their home territory at the weekend; they have been the most on-form team in the series hitherto, and bounced to the top on home soil last year, but they got off to a bad start when Jeroen Dubbeldam and De Sjiem completed in double figures in the first round, and was eliminated in the second.
The Germans were the only team to fare worse with both Markus Beerbaum and Lars Nieberg producing very disappointing performances, dropping Germany back into third place in the overall placings.