Wales avoid relegation in tough 2017 European campaign

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Wales’ men maintained the nation’s place in the B-Division of European Curling this week, but will clearly be disappointed with their performance in St. Gallen. The team struggled to win matches at this year’s championships.

The team had a poor start to the competition after losing their opening match to Poland 7-4 on Saturday.

Sunday was a really disheartening day for Wales supporters. Despite leading France 4-2 after 3 ends, Wales lost scores of 3 and 4 in the next 2 ends to trail 9-4 at the half-time break, and when France took 2 against the hammer in the 6th, it looked too big a mountain to climb. They were knocked back by a second 6-end loss that evening, 11-1 to the Czech Republic. The Czechs were always likely to be tough challengers, and went on to finish unbeaten at the top of the B-Division round-robin, and were only beaten in the Semi-finals.

After those first few days, results started to turn around for Wales, but with 3 losses from a maximum 7 round-robin games on the board, it was always going to be tough to qualify for the play-offs. From that point, the main target then had to be securing their place in the B-Division for another season, with the play-offs still a technical possibility.

Wales’ fourth match was against Denmark – a country which has often done well at the Europeans, but whose team has struggled this year. The match on Monday evening was the first in this year’s competition where Wales scored in the first end – and the first where Team Pougher not only took the lead but defended it in the following end. Wales were in control throughout, and the Danes only scored in 2 ends, with the final score 9-2 to Wales – another match where the handshake came after only 6 full ends.

Despite this being only the team’s first win of the competition, it certainly lifted moods.

On Tuesday’s early evening session, Wales took another victory, 7-4 over Slovenia – and at this point hopes were still alive that the team might qualify for the play-offs – but for that to happen, Wales had to beat Lithuania. That match was a low-scoring affair, with the first 3 ends blanked, but sadly it was Lithuania who not only took the lead, but kept it right to the tenth end to put all thoughts of a play-off spot beyond Wales’s reach.

The final Group game against Turkey therefore would decide if Wales were secure in the B-Division, would have to rely on results elsewhere, or play relegation play-off matches. Unfortunately, Wales did not do so well, losing their match 10-4, and had to rely on results elsewhere. However, because Denmark lost to France (by a single shot), Wales were just ranked highly enough to avoid the relegation play-off zone.

A quick look to the other Home Nations reveals England’s men – who like Wales have been close to promotion to the A-Division in some recent years – finished mid-table in the B-Division this year. England’s women also had a similar campaign, winning just under half their matches. The final B-Division women’s medal-winners were Finland who beat Latvia by 1 shot, while Estonia beat Norway for the Bronze. The Men’s Gold winners were Finland, who beat Poland 8-3 in 8 ends, while the Czech Republic took Bronze with a 4-shot win over Spain, also in 8 ends.

In the A-Division, both of Scotland’s teams guaranteed themselves a medal after winning their semi-finals – with the men beating Switzerland just a couple of hours before the women did the same. The Gold medals will be decided tomorrow (Saturday).