The Kiwis, however, took the individual title through their dual Olympic champion, Mark Todd, who produced another wonderful display of all-round horsemanship on Guiseppe Veronesi's Broadcast News. He defeated Germany's Bettina Overesch-Boker and Britain's William Fox-Pitt.
At the start of yesterday's final show jumping, Britain had 32.2pts in hand. But that advantage began to slip away when Mary King on Star Appeal and Ian Stark on Arakai (who had both jumped swift and faultless cross- country rounds on Saturday) used up 20pts with two show jumps down apiece.
By the time Fox-Pitt came in on Cosmopolitan II, three New Zealanders (Sally Clark, Blyth Tait and Mark Todd) had jumped clear rounds and the British lead was down to 12.2pts. But the British supporters seemed far more fraught than Fox-Pitt himself.
The Briton's biggest scare had come during the morning's final horse inspection, when he was required to present Cosmopolitan a second time amid fears that the horse would fail to pass. "The show jumping seemed quite easy in comparison," he said.
Fox-Pitt is not without nerves, but he kept his cool and he jumped a clear round that brought a tumult of applause for a British victory.
Todd's 14-year-old winning partner, Broadcast News is of similar type to Charisma, the wonderful little horse whom the New Zealander rode to individual victory at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. Todd could not have given Broadcast News greater praise when he said: "His performance here was as good as any horse I have ever ridden."
Like Todd, Overesch-Boker (now European champion) had a superb cross- country round on Saturday with the English-bred thoroughbred, Watermill Stream, who was bought for her by the German Federation. She is now based with Australia's Andrew Hoy at Gatcombe and competing on the British circuit.
Had the New Zealanders included their world champion, Vaughn Jefferis, in the team they would have beaten Britain - for he was back to top form when finishing fifth with Bounce. Kristina Gifford, omitted from the British team, also put up a superb performance to finish sixth in the open championship on General Jock.
Gifford was also the European individual bronze medallist, under the complicated formula that allowed for two sets of medals and protracted presentations.
There was happier news of Claire Smith, from Canada, who sustained severe head injuries in a cross-country fall here on Saturday. Yesterday's bulletin said that she was moving all her limbs and that "there is every indication that she will make a satisfactory recovery''.Reuse content