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Continental Europe grabs 2-point lead in Paris

Paris, France (SportsNetwork.com) - Behind a dominant effort from Nicolas Colsaerts and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Continental Europe jumped out to a 3 1/2 - 1 1/2 lead over Great Britain & Ireland after Thursday's fourball matches at the Seve Trophy.

Colsaerts and Fernandez-Castano, who was a late replacement for the ailing Peter Hanson, cruised to a 5 & 3 victory over GB&I's Marc Warren and Scott Jamieson in the anchor match at Saint-Nom-la-Breteche Golf Club.

Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher opened Thursday's action with GB&I's only win, ousting Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez, 3 & 2, but Continental Europe largely controlled the remainder of the action.

Mikko Ilonen and Thorbjorn Olesen posted a 1-up win over GB&I's Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Wood, while Joost Luiten and Gregory Bourdy earned another point for Continental Europe with a 2 & 1 triumph over Jamie Donaldson and David Lynn.

The opening day's fifth fourballs match, which pitted Continental Europe's Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero against GB&I's Paul Casey and Simon Khan, was halved.

"Joost played extraordinarily well today and made a bunch of birdies, Thorbjorn also played very well," said Continental Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal. "It was a great experience for them, but the main thing is to win points and I think the team is really happy today."

Early Thursday, it appeared to be more of the same for GB&I, which has captured the Seve Trophy six straight times, which includes a 15 1/2 - 12 1/2 victory in the previous meeting.

Jimenez gave his side the early lead when he birdied the first, but Gallacher matched the Spaniard's birdie at the third, then crucially saved par at the fifth to remain 1-down.

Lawrie helped square the match at the par-5 seventh when he hit driver to the green with his second shot from 257 yards out, setting up a winning birdie. Gallacher then gave his side the 1-up lead with a 20-foot birdie putt at the next, and a par at the 10th doubled the Scots' advantage.

Jimenez's birdie at the 11th narrowed the margin to one, but Gallacher matched Bjorn's chip-in birdie at the 14th with a make from 12 feet, and consecutive birdies at the 15th and 16th sealed the lone victory for GB&I.

"It's always nice to win," said Lawrie. "Obviously there is a little bit more pressure when you are going out there first, you want to get a point on the board which we managed to do and we both combined very well today."

GB&I couldn't sustain the early success, however.

The last match to start was actually the second to finish, as Colsaerts and Fernandez-Castano breezed past Warren and Jamieson to earn Continental Europe's first point.

Colsaerts, a Ryder Cup standout at Medinah, and Fernandez-Castano never trailed after notching birdies at the first and third to go 2-up. They were 1- up through 10 after a GB&I birdie there, then closed with three birdies and an eagle over their final five holes to wrap up the convincing victory.

Ilonen and Olesen were 2-up with three to play before both players found the water at the 16th. Fleetwood and Wood got one back there, but were unable to get any closer, as Ilonen and Olesen closed out the win with pars at Nos. 17 and 18.

GB&I appeared poised to earn a point in the next match, as Casey and Khan took a 1-up lead into the final hole, but Molinari managed birdie at the last to halve the match, and Luiten and Bourdy closed out Continental Europe's successful opening day with a 2 & 1 win over Donaldson and Lynn.

"They played very well," said GB&I captain Sam Torrance. "Our boys played very well too, but they made a few more birdies than us. Our turn tomorrow."

NOTES: Hanson withdrew from the Seve Trophy on Monday due to a lingering back injury. His replacement, Fernandez-Castano, was 4-5 in his previous nine matches in the Seve Trophy ... Wood suffered his first loss at this event. In 2009, he went 4-0-1 in his five matches ... The format features a series of five fourball matches on each of the first two days, two sessions of four foursomes on Saturday and ten singles on the final day.