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North London pair help push eventual Olympic champions all the way
11:18am Monday 6th August 2012 in Sport
Britain's last chance of a fencing medal came and went at the ExCeL yesterday - but two north London competitors helped ensure the team foil team went out with their heads held high after pushing top seeds and eventual champions Italy all the way.
The Italians, Olympic champions six times, survived a stiff examination to reach the semi-finals by a 45-40 margin.
Finchley's Richard Kruse, James Davis, from Edgware, and Husayn Rosowsky had beaten Egypt 45-33 to reach the quarter-finals and after Laurence Halsted replaced Rosowsky, were level 35-35.
Kruse went into the last bout against Andrea Baldini trailing 38-40, but Italy's losing semi-finalist in the individual event saw them through.
European silver medallist Halsted had travelled to the last two Games as Kruse's training partner and then was left out of the individual competition, but when his first chance of Olympic action finally came he grasped it by beating world number eight Valerio Aspromonte 6-5.
"It was almost exactly to plan," he said. "We just needed to be really close at the end - we knew we were not going to run away with it against the best in the world.
"To be in it at the end with a chance was definitely what we meant to do, but they had just a class finisher.
"We felt like we had a real shot at it being on home turf after winning the test event here and we came so close.
"I think we could have beaten anybody else and we showed we could have beaten them as well."
Kruse, a quarter-finalist in Athens, had looked completely down in the dumps after losing straightaway in the individual, but he and Davis, both really pumped up, had some great moments.
Davis, only 21 and already 23rd in the world, thrashed Aspromonte 9-4 to turn a 15-11 deficit into a 20-19 advantage and then beat current world champion Andrea Cassara 6-5.
But Baldini won all his three contests and kept his nerve to set up a last-four clash with the United States later in the day.
The other semi-final was between Japan and Germany.
The Italians made much lighter work of America, not losing any of the nine bouts as they went through to the final 45-24.
And the confidence Britain took from their earlier showing, even in defeat, shone through as they crushed fourth seeds France 45-29 to put themselves in a play-off for fifth or sixth place.
Davis said: "I'm really pleased we picked ourselves up - we are a good team and we're moving on."
Halsted added: "That was a spanking victory, exactly what we wanted to do after pushing the Italians so closely.
"Beating a top eight team shows everybody what we're capable of.
"The crowd makes an enormous difference. What we're doing is not just for us, but for everyone who has come to support us, and the sky is the limit with this team.
"It may take a couple of years, but we can reach the top."
Japan guaranteed themselves a first fencing medal of the Games when they edged Germany 41-40 in sudden death in the other semi-final.
Britain had to be content with sixth place when Russia came back from an early deficit to win 45-35.