title when defeating Germany in a jump-off for yesterday's Nations Cup on the third day of the Rome Horse Show. Britain were among the four nations who shared third place in a team contest that rarely, if ever, can have been so close.
Only four faults (the cost of one error) separated the top six teams at the end of two rounds. Switzerland (whose Markus Fuchs jumped the only double clear round on Adelfos) were then level-pegging with Germany on 12 faults. Another four
nations - Britain, France, Belgium and Italy - were on 16.
'We could have won it,' Ronnie Massarella, the British team manager, said. 'I'm pleased that we went so well at our first outdoor show of the year - and I'm thrilled with our young riders.'
John Popely, facing his biggest test, rode Bluebird to the only British clear in the first round before making a single error in the second. Warren Clarke had just one mistake each time on Benjumin. Since one of them is likely to be needed for the summer's World Equestrian Games, those scores were a great
encouragement to Massarella.
Nick Skelton's one error, at the treble, during the opening round was followed by a splendid clear on Everest Dollar Girl. Britain would have made it a three-team jump off had Michael Whitaker (who had two fences down in the first round) jumped clear at the second attempt on Monsanta. But that door closed when the elderly horse hit the middle part of the treble.
Franke Sloothaak had two opportunities to secure a German victory - in the second round and again in the jump-off. But the marvellous mare, San Patrignano Weihaiweij, who had soared over every fence first time, made a single error in each of her next two rounds to give Switzerland a hard-fought victory.
ROME HORSE SHOW Nations Cup: 1 Switzerland 12 faults (clear in jump-off); 2 Germany 12 (four in jump-off); 3= Great Britain, France, Belgium, Italy 16.Reuse content