DORNEY, England (Reuters) - Britain clung on to beat their fierce Australian rivals to take gold in the men's four on Saturday in a thrilling showdown that matched its billing as the race of the Olympic rowing regatta.
The victory on Dorney Lake before 30,000 screaming fans gave Britain a fourth consecutive win in the men's four and took the host nation's medal tally on the course to seven, making it the most successful Olympic regatta for the country in modern rowing.
The win for the British in a race dubbed an "Ashes" showdown, almost on a par with the cricketing rivalry between the two countries, also denied Drew Ginn the chance to become the first Australian to win gold in four Olympic Games.
He had used the build up to the Games to try to heap the pressure on the British boat, saying they would be scared of racing against the Australians.
Instead, the British boat surprised the fast-starting Australians by matching them from the off and then pulling out a slight lead by the 250 meter mark.
They then held on to that lead with a display of powerful rowing which allowed them to respond to anything the Australians could throw at them.
As the two crews went over the line the British threw their arms in the air before collapsing in to their boat and blowing kisses to the crowds and pumping their fists.
The Australians in contrast fell back into their boat and held their heads in their hands.
The two crews then congratulated each other on the side of the lake minutes after the race.
Britain had gained an early edge going into the final when they beat the Australian boat in the semi-final but the race had been expected to be a straight clash between the Australian and British crew. The United States took third.
(Reporting by Kate Holton, editing by Mark Meadows; For all the latest Olympic news go to http://www.reuters.com/london-olympics-2012)
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