Wales secure European B-Division spot

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Five men in semi-profile wearing red and green outfits

Team Pougher.
Pictured (l-r): Simon Pougher (alternate), Garry Coombs (lead), Rhys Phillips (second), Jamie Fletcher (third/vice-skip), James Pougher (skip)

Wales’ men had to come through relegation play-offs at the European Curling Championships 2015, but have managed to secure their place in the B-Division for the 2016 Championships in Braehead.

James Pougher’s team managed to come through their 7th-place play-off against Croatia this morning 10-4, meaning they have no more games to play in the competition. Belgium and Estonia, the 8th-ranked teams from the B-Division, are still playing as I write; the loser of that match faces immediate relegation, while the winner will face Croatia tomorrow (Sat) with the winner remaining in the B-Division and loser going down to the C-Division, which will now take place in the Spring.

Can the team do better for next year? The answer is a definite yes

It’s been a topsy-turvy week for Wales, who started well with a solid win over Slovenia in their first match, but struggled after that. Failing to win either of their games on Sunday was a bitter blow, as it effectively meant they no longer had a chance of qualifying for the medal games and possible promotion, but they bounced back well to take victory over Hungary which meant they were at least on track to avoid relegation.

The team were especially disappointed to have lost their final Group match to Lithuania on Wednesday as that would have secured their B-Division status earlier, but bounced back well to win conclusively this morning.

So can the Wales team do better for next year? The answer is a definite yes, as there were many factors that counted against them this year. It won’t have helped that Vice-Skip Jamie was injured at the start of this season and so the team as a whole did not have much practice or match experience together. That also meant they had less certainty about their best line-up and what order they should play in – with Jamie originally planned to play third but actually playing lead during this tournament.

It should also be noted that as the uncertainty regarding which brooms were and were not legal was only clarified the day before the competition, many teams (including Wales) set off for Esbjerg with brooms which they could not be certain would be permitted – Wales had to modify one broom head, although they didn’t fare as badly as some teams such as England’s ladies who had half their broom-heads banned. It is hoped that by next season Wales may once more have a ladies’ team of their own, and if they could qualify from the C-Division, the presence of a Wales squad which guarantees some supporters would certainly help both teams.

While securing their position in the B-Division may not have been easy this year, it is also worth noting that this was the first time that Adrian Meikle has not featured in the Wales Men’s team in more than a decade, and that a young team managed to stay put without that experience is a credit – if nothing else – to their determination and indefatigable attitude.