Success in men’s 4x100m was GB’s solitary win on an otherwise solid day that ended with hosts Germany leading from defending champs Russia at halfway stage of this year’s European Team Championships

Only three points separate Germany and Russia ahead of the second and final day at the European Team Championships in Braunschweig, Germany. The host nation holds a narrow lead ahead of the defending champions as Germany attempts to retain the title it won in 2009.

With victories in six events, the Russian track and field machine was in top form. Germany, though, had slightly greater consistency and managed to end the first day’s action in the lead with their women’s 4x100m team being disqualified but then reinstated by the race referee.

A disastrous change on the final leg initially saw the Germans end up with zero points but after checking the race video the referee decided to reinstate the German team and they added seven points to their overall tally. There will always be ups and downs in this rollercoaster of a competition and the contest is perfectly poised going into day two.

Russia, the winners in the last three editions of the European Team Championships, got off to a great start with maximum points in the men’s hammer thanks to Sergey Litvinov’s 76.34m, with US-based youngster Nick Miller typifying Britain’s consistent showing with a solid fifth.

The first women’s field event of the weekend, the pole vault, again saw Russia gain top points via Anzhelika Sidorova clearing 4.65m as Britain’s Lucy Bryan was ninth with 4.00m and Poland’s Anna Rogowska, the 2009 world champion, failing to clear a height.

Yekaterina Koneva also earned maximum points for the defending champions as the Russian beat Olha Saladuha of Ukraine in the triple jump with 14.55m, as Yamile Aldama, who turns 42 next month, was seventh for GB with 13.31m.

Russian track athletes were also on fire with Denis Kudryavtsev winning the 400m hurdles in 49.38 ahead of Germany’s Silvio Schirrmeister with Briton Rick Yates third in 50.11. In the women’s 400m, Alena Tamkova of Russia edged out her German opponent Esther Cremer in 51.72 with Shana Cox seventh for Britain.

The Russians were relentless as Yekaterina Poistogova then took top points in the women’s 800m with 2:02.65. With a dozen athletes jostling their way through a modest first lap of 61 seconds, some runners were forced out into lane three but Poistogova timed her finish to perfection. Britain’s Jenny Meadows was well placed most of the race but lost her way a little with 200m to go and finished seventh.

It didn’t all go perfectly for Russia, though. With 2.30m, Andriy Protsenko of Ukraine beat Russian Andrey Silnov in the high jump as GB’s Chris Baker was fifth equal with 2.19m.

The host nation is historically strong in the field events and success came early in the day from David Storl as he won the men’s shot put with 21.20m as Zane Duquemin of Britain was eighth. Germany also traditionally supports athletics very well, so the home team enjoyed brilliant support.

Christian Reif later struck one of the most notable victories of the day as the German took the long jump with 8.13m as Olympic champion Greg Rutherford of Britain finished second with 7.99m.

For sheer entertainment value, though, the race of the day was won by another German, Arne Gabius, as he beat Jesus Espana of Spain in a thrilling 5000m. After being overtaken by Espana in the home straight, Gabius fought back in the closing metres to snatch victory in front of his home crowd as Britain’s Luke Caldwell battled behind in sixth.

France was in flying form in the sprints especially, with Jimmy Vicaut and Myriam Soumare winning the 100m races. Danny Talbot was second behind Vicaut’s impressive 10.03 in the men’s 100m and Rachel Johncock sixth in the women’s event.

The men’s 400m also saw victory for France as Mame-Ibra Anne ran 45.71 with GB’s Daniel Awde continuing his smooth transition from decathlon to one-lap running with a fine third in 46.10.

The French squad proved they could excel in field events, too, with Melina Robert-Michon winning the discus with 65.51m as Jade Lally was eighth for GB with 53.71m.

UKA performance director, Neil Black, was keen to stress on the eve of the championships that this was a “developmental team” due to the busy 2014 summer calendar. A little like Roy Hodgson’s England football team in Brazil, Black was giving youth a chance to gain experience, although the track and field athletes performed with rather more consistency than their footballing counterparts this week.

Due to the BBC devoting roughly eight hours of live coverage to the event – plus the usual sizeable army of British fans who had paid to travel to Braunschweig – there was a certain pressure to perform, too.

The British fighting spirit was illustrated by Charlie Grice in the 1500m. The Phoenix athlete hit the front down the back straight on the last lap and boldly led into the home straight but he faded to fifth as Jacub Holusa of Czech Republic finished most strongly to pass German Homiyu Tesfaye to clock 3:37.74.

With a European under-23 mile record of 3:49.86 in Oslo the previous week, Tesfaye was favourite to win and the end of the race was met with boos after the crowd thought Holusa had barged his way to victory. Yet Tesfaye was at fault for moving out to seemingly block the fast-finishing Czech athlete and the result stood.

In similar style to Grice, Eilidh Child led the women’s 400m hurdles with 50 metres to go but was found wanting as she was passed by Hanna Ryzhykova of Ukraine in the final metres.

Toward the end of the day, Czech Republic also got maximum points in the women’s javelin with Barbora Spotakova as she won by two-and-half metres with 65.57m as Britain’s Izzy Jeffs was seventh.

Finally, with 12 nations competing there was lots of opportunity for a number of nations to have their moment of glory. The women’s steeplechase, for example, saw Sweden enjoy full points through Charlotta Fougberg in 9:35.92 as Lennie Waite of GB was seventh in 9:52.45.

Dutch distance runner Sifan Hassan also shone with one of the performances of the day as she destroyed her rivals in the women’s 3000m with a 58-second last lap as she clocked a championship best of 8:45.25. GB’s Kate Avery, who had finished only 100m behind Hassan at the European Cross Country Championships six months earlier, was ninth with an 8:56.24 PB.

Netherlands also tasted success in the women’s sprint relay as they clocked 42.95 in an event that saw Britain finish fifth. After being reinstated the German team scored seven points for their sixth place finish overall.

Britain avoided such disasters during a solid day full of consistent performances. There were no victories, though, until the very last event – the men’s 4x100m.

Here, Richard Kilty, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, James Ellington and Adam Gemili combined brilliantly to clock 38.51 to take full points and end the day in fourth overall.

Day one scores

1 Germany 195, 2 Russia 192, 3 France 161, 4 Great Britain & Northern Ireland 158.5, 5 Poland 153.5, 6 Ukraine 139, 7 Czech Republic 126, 8 Spain 120, 9 Sweden 108, 10 Italy 107.5, 11 Netherlands 102.5, 12 Turkey 70

» See next week’s AW, out Thursday June 26, for at least 16 pages of European Team Championships coverage