Four Nations 2018 – final results

In brief:

England 29-21 Wales (Kay)
Wales 31-29 Ireland (Meikle)
Scotland 34-22 Wales (Big Bertha)

Wales’ curlers could only manage one trophy from this season’s Four Nations weekend – but it was the one they had targeted, and it was fought hard.

Wales started day two of the 2018 Four Nations weekend knowing it was going to be tough to beat Scotland. They trailed by 14-shots against Scotland, whereas against England the margin was closer at 7 shots. Wales had a slender 3-shot lead against Ireland after their Mixed matches on Friday evening, when Adrian Meikle and James Pougher had mixed individual results against Johnjo Kenny and Corolyn Hibberd respectively – losing 4-7 and winning 11-5 respectively.

The Men’s team (under Adrian) faced Ireland’s John Wilson on Sunday morning, and it was a very close match. With scores back and forth, the match eventually ended with Ireland winning 8-6, taking Wales’ lead to just 1. A couple of sheets away at the same time, Dawn Watson’s women’s trailed Marie O’Kane by a couple of shots going into the final end. There were lots of Welsh red stones in the house, but Ireland could potentially retain the trophy with a well-executed final stone. However, the shot was a little heavy, and Dawn won the final end to take a 10-9 win, making for a 31-29 win overall.

It was the first trophy that Wales could secure, and the most sought-after, given Ireland had beaten all three of the other nations the previous 2 years. Victory for Wales also gave confirmation that Ireland could not win the Grand Slam for a third year running – as they led both England and Scotland at that stage, with both those contests still to finish.

4nations2018-stranrar-draw-7-1The late-morning session saw Wales play Mixed matches against Scotland, and while it was mathematically possible for Wales to turn the standings around, Scotland’s 23-9 lead was impressive. In the circumstances, both Andrews Robbins’ and James Pougher’s teams performed well and were the result dependent on that session alone, Wales would have won the trophy – but the 6-7 loss and 7-4 victory were not enough to catch up and Scotland therefore win Big Bertha (the Welsh Stone) for the first time in several years. This session also saw a number of players who were carrying (or the case of the author, picked up) injuries – which perhaps made the performance all the more commendable.

The final session was against England, and the Kay Trophy was more than mathematically reachable – given in Wales’ first matches with England there had been more than a little luck in the English favour. However, while both men and ladies played were both competitive matches, a 6-6 draw between Adrian Meikle and Tommy Campbell, together with a 6-5 loss by Laura Beever against Val Saville, meant the arrears marginally increased and England won the title 29-21.

 

Next year’s competition will be hosted by the English Curling Association. The ECA hope that it will be possible to hold the contests at the new ice rink at Barton Grange (near Preston), but should the rink project there be delayed, it will take place back at Stranraer. It is expected to be held 18-20 January 2019 (TBC)

Other results

Ireland 28-30 Scotland (Marshal Milennium)
England 35-32 Ireland (Turnbull)
England 40-37 Scotland (men – Tom Ballantyne)
Scotland 27-6 England (women – Connie Miller)

Wales avoid relegation in tough 2017 European campaign

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).

Four Nations 2017 – final results

In brief:

Wales 30-29 England (Kay)
Ireland 40-21 Wales (Meikle)
Wales 36-15 Scotland (Big Bertha)

Wales’ curlers once again took two trophies from a successful – if occasionally very tense – weekend at the Four Nations.

Wales started day two of the 2017 Four Nations weekend knowing they were already favourites to win two out of their three possible trophies. A healthy overnight lead against both Scotland and England meant the Kay Trophy and the Welsh Stone were within their sights, but a 12-shot deficit to Ireland implied a spectacular effort would be needed for Wales to win the Meikle Trophy.

wales-englandThe day started with matches against England, with Andrew Tanner’s men on Sheet A against Tommy Campbell, while Laura Beever’s ladies faced Lesley Gregory on Sheet B. Initially it looked as though they might both be quite tight matches, but in the second half they started to tell different stories. Andrew Tanner’s team opened up a 5-point lead in the sixth end, having scored 2 shots with the hammer and then stealing two against it, but just after that the ladies conceded a score of 4 to put England’s team 11-5 ahead. In the end, it was a pressured final stone draw for Andrew Tanner, and the crowd thought it might have come up just short, but in the end had the final scores (a 9-4 win for the men and a 12-5 loss for the ladies) meant Wales had a single shot advantage and so retain the Kay Trophy.

In the middle session, Wales knew they had a bit of a mountain to climb. Ireland led by 12 shots overnight, although their men’s skip JohnJo Kenny had (just as Wales’ Adrian Meikle did) sustained injury and therefore did not play today. Chris Wells led the Wales men to a 11-5 win by playing consistently and shutting down most of the opportunites Ireland had to score. However, the ladies struggled and lost 16-3 and so Ireland won overall, by 40 shots to 21, and retain the Meikle Trophy.

wales-final-end2The battle for the Big Bertha (Welsh) Stone was already set well in Wales’ favour, as they led Scotland 18-6 overnight. Despite Scotland winning quite a few ends, it was Wales who in both the ladies’ and the men’s matches who took the large scores. A pressured draw into a very congested Sheet A house meant Andrew Tanner’s team took 3 to lead 7-4 after 6 ends, while on Sheet B Wales took a score of 4 to lead by the same score. The ladies built on that to steal two in the seventh, while the men contained Scotland to a single shot, meaning by the time the eighth end started the trophy’s fate was almost mathematically certain, as Wales led by 7 shots in the two matches and 15 shots overall. The men finished their match with a fairly simple takeout for one, which gave them an 8-5 victory, while the women had to wait for Scottish skip Jan Howard to play her last stone into the house where Wales lay shot. The takeout overcurled and hit the guard, giving the Wales ladies a 10-4 win and confirming overall victory for Wales 36-15.

ladies-hi5There was one other trophy be decided on the final session, in the contest between England and Ireland. This one had seen the advantage swing both ways and as the two matches went into their final ends there was barely a shot between the nations overall. In the end, it came down to a measure on Sheet C, but it was finally confirmed that Ireland had taken a single shot in both match and won the trophy by one shot overall.

Next year’s competition is expected to be held 19-21 January 2018 at the ice rink in Stranraer, organised by the Irish Curling Association.

Other results

Ireland 31 – 21 Scotland (Marshal Milennium)
Ireland 27 – 26 England (Turnbull)
England 77-39 Scotland (men – Tom Ballantyne)
England 12-15 Scotland (women – Connie Miller)

Wales face France in Europeans Opener

Adrian Meikle

Adrian Meikle (Skip)

The European Curling Championships are about to begin at Braehead, Scotland, and Wales are already there. The team, now an established setup, are looking to build on their result at the 2015 championships in Denmark, where they secured their place in the B-Division through a 7th-place group play-off.

For the 2016 competition, the team is largely the same as for the 2015 championships. Adrian Meikle returns to the line-up as Skip, as Jamie Fletcher takes the Coach’s position.

Five men in semi-profile wearing red and green outfits

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

Jamie, who is currently unable to compete at international level due to injury, will also be providing some of the match reports for this website.

Alongside Jamie on our web team this year will be Laura Beever, who recently returned from representing Wales at the World Mixed Championships in Russia, and Martin Lloyd, who is a writer and has represented Wales at the annual Four Nations event.

 

Wales’ first match is against France, at 15:00 on Saturday afternoon. Live scores can be found on the 2016 European Curling Championships website. Sadly, while you can watch matches from the A-Division live on YouTube, none of the B-Division matches are due to be webcast.

However, with Braehead curling rink less than 200 miles away from Wales, it is expected that a large number of fans from Welsh curling will make the trip North at some stage of the next week. On behalf of all of them, and those who cannot make the journey for whatever reason, Good Luck, and Good Curling!

Wales finish 18th at World Mixed after beating Estonia

#teamWales by the scoreboard from their last #wmxcc2016 match. L-R: Andrew Tanner (skip), Laura Beever (Third), Emily Sandwith (Lead), David Peek (Second)

#teamWales by the scoreboard from their last #wmxcc2016 match. L-R: Andrew Tanner (skip), Laura Beever (Third), Emily Sandwith (Lead), David Peek (Second)

The Wales Mixed Curling team have significantly improved their ranking at Mixed curling as the 2016 World Mixed Championships draw to a close.

Their final group stage game against Estonia led to a 6-3 victory, which was enough to secure fourth place in Group E with a record of seven matches played, four wins and three losses. Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite enough to qualify for the first knock-out stage, the last 16.

While the overall winners of the competition are still to be decided, the official standings now place Wales at 18th, just two positions short of making the knock-out stage.

The match against Estonia did not all go Wales’ way, and they had to work hard at several ends. However, it got off to a good start when Wales managed to pull off a steal in the first end, despite the end not having gone entirely to plan.

Estonia then responded in the second end by taking a score of two, despite Wales being well set up at one stage. This gave Wales the last stone advantage for the third end.

Estonia's skip holds a broom by a single yellow guard stone

Wales and Estonia trade hits in the fourth end. Photo © 2016 Alina Androsova/WCF. Used with permission.

Wales struggled to play consistently enough to make good use of the hammer advantage, and ends three and four were blanked as the back-and-forth of takeout shots between the teams meant Wales were unable to score more than one. At the half-time break, Wales therefore trailed by 1 shot.

End five was a significant turning point in the match. Wales were deliberately playing a somewhat aggressive strategy with lots of stones heading into the house, and on this occasion it worked out well. Estonia’s centre line guards proved ineffective and Wales sat two when the Estonian skip came to throw his final stone. An attempted freeze onto the shot stone was slightly too heavy and possibly thrown slightly too wide, which left Wales’ Andrew Tanner a shot for three.

The Estonia team clustered around the house which has one red stone and several yellow stones near the button

Team Estonia use their time-out. Photo © 2016 Alina Androsova/WCF. Used with permission.

The sixth end could have turned the tide back again, and at one stage Estonia, who had been running their thinking time clock down a little during the match so far, elected to use their one and only time-out to discuss what to do. With several stones clustered around the button, there was a risk that Estonia could take a score of at least two shots back again; However, good clearing shots from Laura Beever (Third) and Andrew Tanner (skip) meant Estonia were eventually restricted to just a single shot, giving Wales a lead of one shot going into the seventh end.

End seven was a fairly typical end of curling for Wales, who made use of corner guards, draws and hits to take the expected score of two shots with their last stone advantage, putting them three ahead with one end to play.

The eighth end was not completed, as Wales consistently removed the Estonians’ shots from play until it was mathematically impossible for Estonia to even level the match.

The result places Wales fourth in Group E, with a record of four wins and three losses – the first time Wales have had a positive win-loss ratio in several years at this competition and its forerunner, the European Mixed Championships. Unfortunately, there is only space for one of the five fourth-ranked teams to qualify for the last 16, and Wales’ Draw Shot Challenge score was not good enough to put them in contention.

However, the final ranking for the tournament places Wales 18th out of 37 teams, an rise of 8 places from last year (when Wales were 26th of 36 teams). It means Wales are the second-highest-ranked team from Great Britain after Scotland, who beat Canada in their quarter-final last night and this morning play Sweden for a place in the grand final. The second semi-final is between Korea and the hosts, Russia. England also did well, to rise 11 places.

While there is a little disappointment that such a good record did not lead to a place in the knock-out stages, the Wales team will return home on Sunday knowing that they have done a good job and can be proud of their record in Kazan.

Wales team ready for World Mixed

#TeamWales at #wmxcc2016: Emily Sandwith, David Peek, Laura Beever & Andrew Tanner

#TeamWales at #wmxcc2016: Emily Sandwith, David Peek, Laura Beever & Andrew Tanner

The second World Mixed Curling Championships are about to begin in Kazan, Russia, and Wales are once again represented.

There is a mix of experience in the team, with Andrew Tanner stepping up to play as Skip and Laura Beever playing Third. New to the international curling stage are Second David Peek and Lead Emily Sandwith, although both have represented Wales at the annual Four Nations event.

The team landed in Kazan after a long journey yesterday (Thursday) and have today had a chance to try out the ice, which has been specially prepared for this competition. They have also taken to opportunity to explore the host city a little ahead of the Opening Ceremony this evening.

It is still unclear how many matches Wales will play at these championships. If Wales finish high enough in their group table, they will play in the knock-out stage, meaning more matches than the initial seven. However, one of the teams in Wales’ group have been delayed reaching the venue and it is possible that they may not make it in time for their first match of the tournament.

Wales’ first match is against Germany, at 08:00 (06:00 BST) on Saturday morning. Live scores can be found on the 2016 World Mixed Curling Championships website. There is also English-language live video coverage of the competition, although none of Wales’ group-stage matches are due to be featured.

Big day for Wales in Mixed Doubles

Adrian Meikle (l) and Dawn Watson (r).

Adrian Meikle (l) and Dawn Watson (r).

Today is a day that could well decide Wales’ fate at this year’s World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships. After a great start to the event, marred only by losing their first match by 1 shot, Wales sit joint third in their Group table, and play two matches today against teams that have a good pedigree in this format of the game.

Wales have been agonisingly close to the perfect record so far at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships. The pairing of Dawn Watson and Adrian Meikle faced a first match against Brazil, who have competed at the World Mixed Doubles since 2014. It was a very close match, and after eight ends of engaging play the scores were level at seven shots all. Unfortunately, the way the match had gone meant it was Brazil who had the hammer advantage in the Extra End, and they took a single shot to beat Wales 8-7.

Dawn and Adrian were up against curling débutantes Qatar in their second match, and it seems the newcomers still have a lot to learn about this discipline. Wales completely overpowered Qatar, as their only real mistake was allowing Qatar to steal 1 in the very first end. After that, Wales were totally dominant, and took victory by a 13-2 scoreline.

That leaves Wales joint third (with Scotland) in the Group F table. They next face the Czech Republic, at 13:30 BST (14:30 local time), and then take on Scotland this evening (20:00 BST, 21:00 local time). With Adrian’s aim being to reach the play-off stages, meaning a final table position of 1 or 2 is required, they could certainly use at least one victory today.

TV Coverage of the World Mixed Doubles Curling championships is available on the World Curling Federation’s YouTube channel. More information is available on the World Mixed Doubles championship website.

Wales Seniors’ 50% record from 4 games

Five men in mainly-white Wales curling uniforms

Wales’ Senior men’s team. (l-r): Alistair Reid (Alternate), Gary Waddell (Lead), Chris Wells (Second/Vice-skip), Richard Pougher (Third), Adrian Meikle (Skip).

Wales’ Senior Men are keeping an even keel when it comes to results at the World Senior Curling Championships this week. Adrian Meikle, who is also playing in the World Mixed Doubles competition at the same time, has steered his team to victory over the Czech Republic on Saturday and Belgium yesterday.

The team didn’t have the best start to the competition, as they came up against Switzerland on Friday afternoon. Switzerland were Quarter-Finalists in 2015, and despite putting up a good fight Wales were defeated in a very close match. Wales started well, scoring 2 with the hammer in the first end, and leading 4-2 after four ends, but allowing Switzerland to take a 3 in the sixth end proved fatal, and the match was decided at 6-4 to Switzerland without the eighth end being completed. The win over the Czech Republic was a rather different affair, as Wales consistently scored against the hammer and took full advantage of last stone after the two ends the Czechs did score in, with the final score 7-3 to Wales.

Against the Belgians on Sunday, Wales were fully in control of the match, despite having the last stone for just a single end. Taking two against the hammer in the first end was a great start, and at the half-way stage Wales were 5-1 up from four ends, but the real decider was the sixth end. Everything seemed to go well for Wales, and they took a score of 6 to put the match almost beyond Belgium’s reach. Theoretically, Belgium could still have levelled the scores in the remaining two ends, but Wales took one shot in the seventh and so the teams shook hands with Wales 14-1 ahead.

There was a quick turnaround for Wales on Sunday, as after just a few hours’ rest they were up against Germany. Whether the back-to-back matches had any significant effect is difficult to tell, but Wales certainly had to battle in this game. The Germans had the last stone as the game began, but the first half of the match was all very tight, with both teams forced to take just a single shot with the hammer in the first three ends. Germany managed to apply some leverage in the fifth end though, taking a shot against the hammer to lead 3-1 after four ends. Wales had a good response, taking 2 shots in the fifth end, but that proved to be their final score of the match. Despite Germany being forced to blank the sixth end, and a very close finish as Wales took last-stone-advantage against a 1-shot deficit into the final end, it was Germany who emerged victorious 5-3.

They are currently in play against Russia, and after two ends it is still anyone’s game, as Russia lead by three shots to two.

Four Nations 2016 – final results

In brief:

Wales 34-21 England,

Wales 24-29 Ireland,

Wales 27-18 Scotland

Wales’ curlers returned down the M6 with two trophies to their name after a successful weekend at the Four Nations.

Day Two (Sunday) started with Wales picking up against England with a small lead in hand. We were 6 shots ahead of England after the two Mixed matches, and there was a good response to it during the morning session today. The Ladies had a closely-fought match, but secured victory by 6 shots to 5, while the men had a much more conclusive win over England, beating John Brown’s team 14-6.

In the second session, Wales faced Ireland and we held just a 1-shot lead after the first day’s play.

The men started well, stealing a point from the first 2 ends, but Ireland managed to control the game after that; a chief example was that despite a superb double-takeout from James Pougher, Ireland still managed to draw to the centre of the house with almost pinpoint accuracy. The ladies did not have a great game, mainly due to the quality of their opposition, and the result was pretty well sealed when Ireland took a score of 4 in the sixth end to go 9-3 ahead – but Wales did recover somewhat with a 2 in the last end to finish with a loss of 11-5. James Pougher’s team could only manage a 5-5 draw, making the final score for the Meikle Trophy a 29-24 victory to Ireland.

Finally came the men’s and ladies’ matches against Scotland. The overall scores from the first day were level. The men had an easier game than the women, as the Wales men had pulled forward to lead 10-3 after 6 ends, while the women struggled to reduce their arrears to 2-6 behind at the same point. After a tightly-controlled sixth and seventh ends, the men took victory by 15 shots to 3, while the women took  2 shots in the final end to reduce their arrears to 7-4, meaning Wales took victory and the Big Bertha stone by 9 shots.

In the other competitions, England’s men secured the Tom Ballantyne Trophy by 63 shots to 47- although the trophy itself was not at the event! Scotland’s ladies fared better, beating England 20-9 for the Connie Miller Trophy. Ireland also managed victory over Scotland, taking the Marshall Millennium Trophy by a 33-27 overall score, and topped that off with victory over England by 33 shots to 22 in order to take the Turnbull Cup. It means Ireland are triple-crown champions, the title which Wales took only last year.

We return back home having retained two of the three trophies won last year. Next year’s competition is expected to be around 12 months later at Ayr in south-west Scotland, organised by the RCCC.

Photos of the event will follow.

Wales secure European B-Division spot

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.