Fencing: Great Britain's women crushed by favourites Italy in team foil

 

Britain's women were crushed 42-14 in double-quick time by strong title favourites Italy in the quarter-finals of the fencing team foil at the ExCeL this morning.

Natalia Sheppard, Sophie Troiano and Anna Bentley had beaten Egypt 45-34 to set up the clash with the three medallists in the individual competition.

The gulf in class was obvious from the start, Elisa Di Francisca, Arianna Errigo and Valentina Vezzali - gold, silver and bronze respectively last Saturday - cruising through.

The other three quarter-finals still had a long way to go when the British trio exited the arena to the applause of the sympathetic crowd.

If ever there was a mission impossible, this looked like it.

Britain, 13th in the world, still had to fight for fifth to eighth place and it was fifth-ranked Poland for them next after they, as expected, lost to France.

The only one of the trio to avoid defeat in any of the nine contests was Polish-born Sheppard, but her 2-2 draw with Vezzali in the closing three minutes came with the overall outcome in the bag.

Sheppard had lost 5-0 to Di Francisca and 5-4 to Errigo, while Troiano came out of her three bouts with only one point against Errigo.

As for Bentley, a lowly 165th in the world, she could feel relatively content. She took three points off Errigo and two off Vezzali and Di Francisca.

Earlier Sheppard led the way against the 18th-ranked Egyptians by winning all three of her contests by a combined 22-11 margin, but her two teammates played their parts too.

Although the Italians were overhwelming favourites for the match, Britain had held them to 39-34 in the last eight of the European championships in Sheffield last year and so the margin was another disappointment for a 10-strong home squad which failed to get anybody into the last 16 of any of the individual competitions.

The one remaining chance for a medal is the men's foil team of Richard Kruse, James Davis and Husayn Rosowsky, but they all suffered first round defeats on Tuesday - and they also have to play the top-seeded Italians if they beat Egypt first on Sunday.

PA

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