Though finishing fifth in Friday’s Swedish Nations' Cup, Ireland held on to their important number two position on the world leaderboard, with a total of 24 points after the fourth leg of the series, just 5.5 points behind leaders the Netherlands.

With a team of four horses making their top-level Nations' Cup debuts, Ireland did remarkably well in the two-round battle against many more experienced teams, registering two superb clear rounds from Nicola FitzGibbon - making her rider debut at Superleague level with Puissance - and veteran Irish Nations' Cup rider Denis Lynch with Lord Luis.

There were solid performances from pathfinder Shane Breen and the Irish-bred Cos I Can, as well as Cian O'Connor with his borrowed horse Splendor.

Both lowered one fence apiece in each round meaning that Ireland finished on a total of 16 faults, but picked up series points for a fourth place, as host nation Sweden are not part of the 2011 Superleague.

Team Ireland Equestrian team manager Robert Splaine said after the competition: ‘This was an excellent performance as we arrived here with five combinations who had heretofore not competed at this top level and my decision in relation to the four chosen for today was not made easy for me.

‘However, the team delivered solid performances in the ring and being one fence off second place was an excellent achievement.

‘As it is for all nations, having Falsterbo and Aachen back-to-back makes things extremely difficult and in this situation we need all riders co-operating and making themselves available as the ultimate aim this year is Olympic qualification at Madrid in September.’

The series continues in Aachen, Germany, next Thursday, followed by Hickstead in England at the end of the month, then Dublin in early August.

The 2011 series finishes at Rotterdam on 26 August, with those at the bottom of the table facing relegation for 2012.