London 2012: Heroic Great Britain fencers narrowly fail to defeat champions Italy
Men’s team foil quarter-final: Great Britain 40 Italy 45
Great Britain’s men’s foil team bowed out at the quarter-final stage but only after a thrilling battle with gold medal favourites Italy at the Excel Centre.
Three north London fencers – Richard Kruse (Camden), James Davis (Barnet) and Laurence Halsted (Islington) were in the British squad that took on the reigning world champions.
Having suffered disappointment in the individual event on Tuesday, Kruse and Davis led the British charge early on Sunday morning in the opening clash with Egypt, which GB won 45-33 to set up a last-eight-encounter with the Italians.
Davis was first in action in the nine-leg quarter-final, but trailed 3-1 after being edged out by Italy’s Andrea Baldini. However Kruse, the British No1, battled back into contention at 9-10 after a superb clash with world No1 Andrea Cassara.
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The Italians restored their lead after leg three featuring GB’s Husayn Rosowski against Cassara, which saw the Italians lead 14-11, but then Davis fenced the best leg of his career to defeat Asrpromonte 9-5 and see GB take a shock 20-19 lead.
Rosowski was then beaten 5-2 by Baldini as Italy regained the lead after the fifth leg at 24-22, but Kruse then had another titanic battle with Cassara, losing 6-4 but keeping GB in contention at 30-26 to the Italians.
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The British team management then decided to substitute Rosowski with Halsted, who made his Olympic debut to maintain a fine family tradition with both of his parents also having fought for GB at past Games.
He did not let the family name down, posting a superb 6-5 win over Italy’s weak link Aspromonte, to cut the Italians’ lead to 35-32 with two legs remaining.
Davis returned to the piste for leg eight, with the mighty Cassara facing him, but in what will be the GB fencing squad’s best memory of these Games, recorded a 6-5 win to send the crowd wild and reduce the overall gap to just two points ahead of the final leg.
Kruse returned for leg nine against Italy’s Baldini, with Italy’s lead 40-38, for the most important three minutes of his fencing career.
Ultimately, it was just beyond the 29-year-old who coaches the sport in Camden, as Baldini won 5-2 to take Italy through to the semi-finals with a final score of 45-40.