A crucial clear showjumping round from Astier Nicolas and Piaf de B’Neville clinched team gold for France in the Eventing Team Final at Deodoro today, the first gold medal of the Rio 2016 Games for France and only the second medal overall. (Arnd Bronkhorst/FEI)

Today France clinched team gold in Olympic Eventing at Deodoro Park, with defending champions Germany taking home silver and Australia picking up bronze. It was a battle for the medals, which came down to the last four into the arena to determine the result.

At the start of the day the Australians led with a 4.5 point advantage over the New Zealanders with the French just behind and then the Germans.

Over the 12-fence track, Australia’s, Stuart Tinney, riding Pluto Mio knocked down four fences and was awarded time penalties, collecting 17 faults, which meant Australia slipped into the bronze medal.

The only full four-rider team, the French were sitting comfortable after amazing rounds from both Karim Laghouag (Entebbe) and Thibaut Vallette (Qing de Briot), but they began to look exposed when Mathieu Lemoine’s (Bart L) rattled two fences claiming eight faults.

Clarke Johnstone riding Balmoral Sensation enhanced New Zealand’s position with a clear round, while the Australian Sam Griffiths returned on a zero score allowing them to hold onto bronze if Christopher Burton, could bring Santano II home without any issues.

As the final moments of the competition unravelled, the Germans Sandra Auffarth (Opgun Louvo), Ingrid Klimke (Bob) and Michael Jung (Sam) all had superb clears to put the pressure on the other teams. However, the French remained cool, and a perfect round from Astier Nicolas and Piaf de B’Neville meant France posted a finishing score of 169.0 penalties.

It was still all to play for, as double Olympic gold medallist Mark Todd entered the arena for New Zealand, but an unfortunate 16 faults with Leonidas ll sent the New Zealanders chances crashing as they finished on 178.80.

However, for Australia, the drama lasted to the very end as Christopher Burton and Santano picked up eight faults to tally Australia’s finishing score to 175.30 for bronze, knocking New Zealand to fourth.

Mark Todd was tipped for the sixth Olympic medal of his career. “That will be one of the biggest lows in my career. The whole week was a roller coaster ride. After yesterdays’ cross-country we were still in with a chance and then – boom – you’re out. I was hoping to go out on a high,” said Mark Todd.

This is the first gold and only the second medal of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for France, which has only won two previous team medals in Eventing – a bronze in Rome in 1960 and gold at Athens in 2004.

“There was a lot of pressure going into this, and really I just had to do what I could for the team. But even though there was a lot of pressure, I didn’t let it bother me. I really enjoyed my round and I am very happy,” said Astier Nicolas.