Alex Gregory and Mohamed Sbihi came out top for the second year running in a star-studded men’s pair final at the GB Rowing Team Trials at Caversham.
The duo, both reigning world champions in the men’s four, soon took a length out of a high-quality field and never lost control of their lead.
Behind them Constantine Louloudis, fresh from Oxford’s Boat Race triumph, and Olympic men’s four champion Pete Reed, nudged past 2012 Olympic bronze medallists George Nash and Will Satch to take second.
Gregory said: “That was possibly one of the hardest races of the year for us, against our mates, our team-mates, our work colleagues and there was a lot of pressure riding on that across the field.
“There were six really strong boats there, and going into it you didn’t know what was going to happen. I’m really pleased with our result. There was lots of pressure on us as the lead pair and we’ve been feeling it for the last three weeks. That was really important”.
Olympic lightweight women’s double champion Kat Copeland was eased out of the honours in a sizzling lightweight single scull final.
It took a video replay to give the verdict to her 2014 crew-mate Imogen Walsh from Charlotte Taylor while Copeland, having led throughout, was caught in the final 100m by the momentum of the battling duo behind her.
“I feel really overwhelmed,” said Taylor. “It just reflects what we have been like as a group this year. We got the most out of each other because we were all so determined to win that no-one was going to let anything go.
“Absolutely amazing credit to Imogen and Kat. We are a really tight-knit group, so we know each other’s style and strategy”.
Katherine Grainger’s return to the sport after two years out didn’t end with victory as Vicky Thornley beat her in the open women’s single scull final.
Thornley burst out of the start, had the lead after 100m, was half a length up by 500m gone and then eased out to a full length lead by the mid-point.
Thornley said: “I was really pleased, that race went to plan and it was definitely my best rowing of the weekend.
“I just wanted to go out and not worry too much about what everyone else was doing and put myself in the best position to race well.”
Grainger, gracious in defeat, added: “I’ve only been back a relatively short time. It would have been lovely to take the title again but it was a feisty second place and to someone like Vicky who is an amazing sculler.
"She had a great season last year and has clearly learnt a lot from that.”
Elsewhere, Charles Cousins won the men’s single final for the third year in a row. His fellow world quad silver medallists Graeme Thomas and Peter Lambert were locked in battle with World U23 medallist Angus Groom in his wake and Thomas eventually came out on top.
Jamie Kirkwood completed a return to form from a knee injury to win the lightweight men’s single scull final.
And Helen Glover and Heather Stanning cruised to victory in the women’s pair final taking the verdict by ten seconds from Olympians Jess Eddie and Louisa Reeve.
Sir David Tanner said: “We have had some outstanding racing today with some fantastic tight finishes and whilst most of our top guns have performed to their best we have seen some young talent come through as well.
“The attitude and discipline of our rowers this weekend has been exceptional and this will be a good base for us to form our boats for the European Championships over the next few weeks.”
© Sportsbeat 2015