Early season rust has proved to be too much of a handicap for Ireland’s quartet of representatives in this week’s Ten Nations Cup in South Africa.
While three of the four broke par in the third round, the men in green still slipped to eighth of the nine competing nations - Wales did not travel in the end - at Kingswood Golf Estate near George.
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Moyola Park’s Chris Selfridge leads the Irish challenge after a one under 71 left him tied for 15th in the individual standings on three under par - 13 strokes behind leader Brady Watt of Australia.
Mourne’s Reeve Whitson returned the best Irish score of the day, firing an eagle, five birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey in a 69 that left him joint 21st on one under.
Lucan’s Richard O’Donovan produced Ireland’s third counting score despite a closing double bogey five for a 71.
Having opened with an eagle three at the first, he birdied the eighth and 13th to go four under for the day but bogeyed the 14th and then dropped those two shots at the last.
O’Donovan is 32nd in the 36-man field on seven over while Belvoir Park’s Harry Diamond is joint 25th on four over after a non-counting 72.
Ireland are one over for the tournament in penultimate spot, six shots ahead of tail-enders France.
At the other end of the leaderboard Australia lead by three strokes from New Zealand on 27 under with Argentina five off the pace in third.
Victoria’s 14-year-old Ryan Ruffles began the charge for Australia, riding a hot putter to six birdies and an eagle to cover the 6,123m layout in a blistering seven-under-par 65. Team mates Geoff Drakeford and Brady Ward contributed a pair of 69s for a third round total of 13 under 203 that lifted the side into pole position on 27-under-par 621.
“It was a great round, and it feels great to also contribute, especially after Brady’s course record put us back into the tournament yesterday,” said Ruffles. “Now we just need to keep the momentum going and keep our noses in front tomorrow.”
Neighbouring New Zealand slipped into second spot with a 54-hole team total of 24 under 624 after carding 16-under-par 200, put together by an equally impressive 65 from Vaughan McCall (65), a 67 from Tyler Hodge and a 68 from Blair Riordan.
Argentina looms in third, just five off the pace, after Jamie Lopez Rivarola gave the side a welcome shot in the arm with a six under 66. Alejandro Tosti (67) and Joaquin Bonour (69) contributed the other two counting scores that made up Argentina’s third round 202.
But England can still mount a final round challenge after Gauteng North Open winner Toby Tree (67), Jamie Rutherford (69) and Max Orrin (71) combined for 207 to take their tally to 21-under-par 627.