A dramatic final day of the European Team Championships at Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham witnessed a remarkable victory by France's women's team, while England regained the men's trophy.
England were hot favourites for the women's title, having beaten France in the last five finals and won the title on all but one occasion in the event's 41-year history. Their sole defeat came in the 2010 semi-final to – and in – France, where the Netherlands went on to win the final.
Camille Serme put France ahead as she beat Sarah-Jane Perry in four games, but Laura Massaro also won in four against Coline Aumard to take the match to a decider. Melissa Alves came flying out of the blocks, taking the first two games 11-1, 11-3 against England's much higher ranked Victoria Lust.
Lust fought back to take the third, and again from 1-7 down in the fourth to level at 8-all. But it was Alves who took the next two points, and on her second match ball the impossible happened, a front court winner from Alves, a no let for Lust, and to French disbelief and delight they had finally become women's European Team Champions.
Serme was ecstatic: “We've been trying to win this for so long now, it feels great. Thanks to England for pushing us over the years, we're delighted to finally win one.”
In the men's final, England faced third seeds Spain, who had beaten defending champions France in the semis. England had beaten Spain 4-0 in the pool stages, but Spanish number one Borja Golan missed that match and immediately made amends as he beat Declan James in the opening match, James unable to properly compete in the fifth after an injury,
James Willstrop put England level with a straight-games win over yesterday's Spanish hero Iker Pajares. Daryl Selby put England ahead with a five-game win over Bernat Jaume, which left England needing one game from the final match and Spain needing a three-nil win and points countback.
Tom Richards was always ahead against Edmon Lopez, and finished the match as he took the game 11-9, Lopez diving in vain into the back corner.
“I'm really proud to have been able to captain this team to the title,” said captain Selby.
“It's been a long time since the event was held at home, so to do it here with the support of the crowd makes it even more special.
“It's been a great event, superbly organised, and we're all grateful for that and the support of the referees, volunteers, ESF, Edgbaston Priory Club and all the England Squash support staff.”
The day started with the women's third-place playoff match which saw Belgium's Nele and Tinne Gilis take them to victory over Scotland for a second Bronze medal in a row.
The Scottish men went one better as they beat France in the men's third-place playoff, after narrowly losing to the former champions in the pool stages.