Wales lose to group favourites

ECC2016MenAnother great group of Welsh supporters braved early morning alarms and the frigid Glasgow air to cheer on their team as they took on the Czech Republic in both teams’ second matches at these European Championships.

The Czech team, fancied by many to bounce back to the “A” group this year, took control early and managed a blank and a steal of one in the first two ends.

The third end saw a very aggressive strategy adopted by Welsh skip, Adrian Meikle. A great come around from second, Rhys Phillips, and a pivotal double by third, James Pougher, set up an open hit for two. Unfortunately, Meikle’s shot was slightly wide and the Czechs breathed a sigh of relief as they put another one on the board.

Wales responded with a single in the fourth but too many half shots led to a deuce for the Czech Republic in the 5th, leaving them up 4-1 at the break.

The sixth end saw Wales take a single with the hammer, leading to a very exciting seventh.

As the end unfolded, the Czechs piled on the pressure with several very good draws. Meikle, facing two with his final shot, played an incredible angle raise hit to sit one, completely buried. The Czech fourth couldn’t quite find the right line and Wales stole one to make the score 4-3.

Wales, again were in some trouble in the eighth, but a James Pougher triple takeout opened up a draw through a tight port for Meikle and another steal looked likely. Unfortunately for Wales, the Czechs made an even better shot to take one and lead 5-3 after eight ends.

A couple of missed opportunities left Wales with nothing but a wide draw against two in the ninth but it came up short, giving the consistent Czech team a 7-3 lead. The tenth end was a formality as Wales were promptly run out of stones.

Although disappointed to lose the game, a lot of positives can be taken from the performance today. As the tournament progresses, if the team is able to better capitalise on their opponents’ mistakes, Wales’ first B division playoff appearance in over a decade is certainly within their reach.

Up next: Wales play Spain and Lithuania tomorrow, both of whom have yet to taste victory at these championships. Two wins tomorrow would give Wales a 3-1 record heading into what could be a pivotal clash with Turkey Tuesday morning.

For game updates and even more curling coverage, please follow @fpowcurling and @teampougher

 

Wales win thrilling European Opener

ECC2016MenAs thousands of football fans were snoozing through another boring 0-0 draw, the travelling Welsh curling fans were treated to a tense back and forth affair as Wales and France squared off in their opening matches of the European Curling Championships.

Despite controlling the first two ends, the Welshmen couldn’t quite find the touch they needed and found themselves down 2-0 going into the third end.

In a reversal of fortunes, France took control of the third end and were poised to pick up a third consecutive steal until James Pougher, playing third, made an inch perfect hit and roll to completely turn the end around. An open hit for skip, Adrian Meikle, led to three going on the board for Wales.

After a blank in the fourth, the two teams took singles with the hammer until the eighth end where, again, Pougher showed off his impressive hitting skills, making a difficult double to set up a deuce and a 6-4 Wales lead. France blanked the ninth, leading to an exciting, back and forth tenth end.

In the tenth, Wales elected to keep it clean but France still managed to set up a difficult final shot for Meikle. He managed to squeeze one French stone out of the rings, leaving an open draw for two for the French skip. With the simple shot made, the two teams headed to an extra end.

As the incredible Welsh contingent in the crowd looked on, a tense 11th end ensued. Although a relatively open end, the French managed to set up a guard just off the centre line, partially covering their stone at the back of the four foot. Pougher, as he had throughout the game, played a perfect shot and removed both French stones. The rest of the end was simple for the dragon men. Meikle had an open draw to an empty house for the win and he made no mistake, sliding into the eight foot for the win.

Up next: Wales take on a highly fancied Czech Republic team Sunday morning at 8:00. The Czech Republic were relegated from the A division last year and are looking to go straight back up this season. Led by skip Karel Kubeska, the team recently won the Edinburgh International, defeating reigning world silver medalist, Rasmus Stjerne, in the semi-final. There’s no doubt the Welsh will be in tough against such experienced competition, but they will take heart from today’s victory and come out fighting tomorrow.