Wales secure B-Division status for 2017 with double victory
Wales 9-6 Spain – Boys make hard work but come out on top
Wales 8-2 Lithuania – Afternoon siesta pays dividends with comfortable win
The frosty sight of Glasgow tower blocks sprinkled with occasional lit up window and the green hue of traffic lights through the mist could not be further from the idealised picture of sunshine and sand painted by irrepressible Spanish tourist board advertisements, and the Iberians will have been left wishing for their homeland after a gruelling examination that went the distance at the hands of a Wales team facing the second of three consecutive 8 a.m. starts – and the first half of a Monday double header.
For the first time at this tournament Wales made a change to their line up, bringing in alternate Simon Pougher as Lead, joining Rhys Phillips at Second, James Pougher at Third and Adrian Meikle continuing to Skip the side that had won one and lost one at the 2016 Championship so far. A solid pair of draw shots from Rhys and James gave the Welsh the opening advantage of the hammer and, after peeling away several Spanish stones in the opening end, Adrian was able to roll in to take one.
Wales managed to get a stone in the house early in the second end and, when Spain’s attempted takeout clipped the guard, James is given the opportunity to put a second one in as well. The Spanish third atoned for his error, however, with an impressive double to clear the house and reduce the chance of Wales stealing anything. Adrian then draws into the house and the Spanish skip clips the guard, leaving his stone lying to one side of the house. Adrian removes this stone and rolls to rest, forcing the Spanish to take the only one and level the scores.
Guards went up out in front in the third, resulting in a messy end. Matters come to a head when a Welsh take out stays narrowly wide and a Spanish stone is able to linger in the house for a steal of one. Wales are able to get stones in the house early in the fourth end, whilst taking out Spanish stones but an error riddled end concludes with a Spanish take out accidentally taking off their own stone and then pulling up short with their last to leave a straightforward draw for Adrian to score four – Wales’s biggest end of the competition so far.
A split house in the fifth is opened up by another well played Spanish double but James plays a good stone of his own to keep Wales in contention right up until the end, raising a Welsh stone to remove a Spanish and rolling over into a good position. Adrian puts his two stones at the top of the house, forcing the opposition to once again draw for one and heading into the half way interval with the score at Spain 3, Wales 5.
The sixth end presented several opportunities for Wales to take two but these were repeatedly cut out by good Spanish stones until a difficult shot well made restored the Welsh advantage to three points. A scrappy series of traded hits in the seventh leaves and the Spanish use the advantages afforded to them by the hammer in this end to cut the deficit and enter the final phase of the match just a single point behind.
Crucially, a miss by the Spanish early in the eighth opened up the possibility of another big end for Wales, widened still further by the very next Spanish stone striking the long guard. The Welsh couldn’t take advantage, however, and the following shots from Spain were all well made to restrict Wales to taking just one from the end. No real pattern developed in the ninth and it eventually took some good shot making by the Welsh to force the Spanish to take one and – essentially – to keep hold of the hammer going into what would be the decisive end.
The tenth came to life with a powerful, dynamic display of sweeping by Rhys for James’s first delivery which, although removed by the opposition was followed by another well measured effort, to leave Wales in prime position to take something from the end. Adrian then sent his first down to peel away the Spanish guard and roll to join the early stone at the rear of the house. Spain were able to draw onto the Welsh stones but Adrian was up to the challenge of removing that to leave three Welsh stones counting and no Spanish shots in the house.
Wales will have been glad to have gotten out of a number of potentially tricky situations in this game, with their superb effort to score big in the fourth ultimately the difference between the two sides. Final Score after ten ends: Spain 6, Wales 9.
Five and a half hours later, the Welsh were ready for their second challenge of the day and the chance to put valuable distance between themselves and relegation to the C Division. Well rested, the boys restored Garry Coombs to the line-up as Lead but that was the only change. The draw shot this time did not come out in Wales’ favour and they were forced to deliver first.
After initially struggling to get stones to stick in the house throughout the first end, Adrian was able to draw in to the centre and whilst Lithuania tried to remove it and roll out their shot didn’t carry enough weight and they were forced to take the one. The second end started well with guards up in front but both teams were able to navigate their stones around and into the house. Lithuania found the Welsh stubborn to dislodge and Wales were able to tap up a guard stone to join them, sending their opponents into damage control. This was unsuccessful, however, and Adrian was left with a narrow gap through which to slip another stone for four – the second time that had been achieved in the day.
Wales got two in the house early in the third, with the Lithuanians only able to chip away one of them at a time. Their opportunity came at the close of the end, however, when they finally push the Welsh out and leave the house open for a blank end. A hitting end emerges in the fourth as Lithuania fail to build any rhythm to their play, intent on settling for a blank end. The fifth and final end of the opening half sees Welsh stones staying clear of their Lithuanian counterparts and come to rest as a pair of neat corner guards, just on the edge of the house. With a draw for one the only option, the Lithuanians have are forced to go into the break 2-4 down and surrender the hammer to the Welsh.
The sixth steps up fairly early with Welsh stones wicking away Lithuanian ones to draw into the centre, before Adrian is able to bring one to rest at the back of the house and another squirts past after some muscular sweeping for a Welsh take of two. Wales put one in early in the seventh, looking throughout the end to steal and apply more pressure. At the very end, with the welsh still sitting one, Lithuania used the hammer to play a heavy draw; intending to tap the Welsh stone out but inadvertently tapped their own shot away for an unexpected steal of one – much to the surprise and merriment of the vocal Welsh support.
What would prove to be the final end started with a number of long Lithuanian guards being peeled away – including one shot from Rhys Phillips which forced both of them out wider – before Adrian could draw marvellous into the button to effectively end the contest. The result was confirmed by a handshake between the skips with the score standing at Wales 8, Lithuania 2.
That score leaves Wales on a record of three wins and just one defeat in their opening games, joint second in their group and no longer looking anxiously over their shoulders at the undesirable prospect of a relegation shoot out. Instead, the boys can look forward to the coming tests of Turkey, Israel and Slovakia with an air of optimism that is well deserved.