Wales avoid European relegation in tight contest with Turkey

Four men in Wales team kit, standing in semi-profile

Wales Men 2018: (L-R) Simon Pougher, Garry Coombs, Rhys Phillips, Adrian Meikle

The Welsh men’s curling team have had a difficult week at the 2018 European Curling Championships in Estonia, but have managed to secure their place in the B-Division of European curling for another season – despite a tough relegation match against Turkey this afternoon.

The team found themselves ranked 7th in their group after failing to beat former A-Division nation Austria in their crucial final group match. It had been a slightly disappointing result to lose by a single shot, especially as Wales had managed to level the match at 6-6 by stealing in the 10th end.

Relegation match

At the end of the Group Stage, Wales had an overall record of 2 wins and 5 losses, with both the wins having been from the opening day of the competition. The results of their group matches, combined with Wales’ overall Draw Shot average score, put them 7th in Group B. Wales were ranked above Slovenia, who they beat earlier in the week.

Ranking seventh put Wales up against Turkey, who finished the round-robin in the same position in Group A. The 7 v. 7 match is preferable to the 8 v. 8 match as it makes it possible to avoid relegation with a single win – or to lose and still not be immediately relegated.

The match began well, with Wales easily out-drawing Turkey in the pre-match Draw Shot Challenge, meaning Wales started the game with the last-stone “hammer” advantage – and they made good use of that by taking a score of 2 in the first end.

Turkey responded to level the scores in End 2, and then made things tricky in End 3. A couple of missed shots from Wales, combined with good control of the centre line from Turkey, had Wales in some difficulty by the Skip stones – and while Turkish Skip Ugurcan Karagoz didn’t throw the perfect 8th stone, Adrian Meikle’s final stone of the end finished just short of the scoring zone leaving Wales a shot behind what they might have expected.

Turkey took a 2 in the 4th end, to go 4-3 ahead – but End 5 caused some real damage and made life really difficult for the Welsh team. A couple of crucial stones didn’t end up where Wales needed them, which left Turkey with a well-guarded stone in the middle of the house come Skip stones, and Turkey took full advantage to steal a score of 2 and go 6-3 up at the half-time break.

Second Half

The second half saw Wales generally better able to control the house, even in the ends when they did not have the hammer. Wales could re-focus after a score of 2 in the 6th end, and after Turkey only scored a single shot in the 7th, End 8 proved a turning point.

Despite Turkey controlling the centre line well for the first half of End 8, Wales managed to clear the guards and then remove the opposition shot stone to lie shot when the final Turkish stone of the end came down, with a second yellow stone in the house but not counting. Turkey attempted a take-out shot, but missed the shot stone leaving Adrian Meikle a hit for 3, which he executed well. This put Wales 8-7 up after 8 ends.

End 9 was not a textbook end of curling, with lots of stones in the house and control switching from Wales to Turkey part-way. Sadly Wales’ stones near the front of the house were cleared away, leaving Turkey able to draw in to the edge of the 4-foot circle, and despite a decent freeze shot, Wales could not prevent Turkey putting their final stone on the button to score 3 – giving them a 10-8 lead.

Wales began the 10th End conventionally, putting up a couple of corner guards while Turkey put 3 stones in the house to apply pressure. A combination of a good heavy draw from Garry Coombs and a shot from Turkey unfortunately removing their own stones from the house left the scoring zone open for Wales to draw in, and despite Turkey’s efforts to clear and then out-draw the yellow stones, a well-judged heavy draw with Adrian Meikle’s final stone gave Wales a score of 3, and a 12-10 victory.

You can relive the action from all of Wales’ matches at the Championships this year by following the LiveStones as entered by coach James Pougher.

The result

The 12-10 victory in the relegation match means Wales’ men have secured their place in the B-Division of European curling for another season.

Turkey will now face France, who won their 8 v. 8 match against Slovenia. Slovenia themselves are now relegated to the C-Division (which is played in April 2019), where they will be joined by the loser of the match between Turkey and France.

Elsewhere, England’s men were playing a semi-final match against Latvia at the same time as Wales were fighting to avoid relegation. The team led by Andrew Reed won 9-6, meaning England’s men will now play in the A-Division for the 2019-20 season, and play Denmark for the B-Division Gold Medal at 6pm (UK time).

James Pougher, who as he recovers from surgery acted as team Coach for this competition rather than playing in his regular role of Skip, said:

The team are over the moon to qualify Wales for next year’s European Championships in Sweden.

It was a disappointing week where we lost many close games that could have been a win had a couple of shots of ours and the oppositions gone slightly differently.

A win against Turkey means safety.

But a huge congratulations to Andrew Reed’s English rink, who have had a fantastic week, topping the group and going on to gain entry to the world qualification event in New Zealand and England’s promotion to the A division.

In the A-Division, Scotland’s men will play for the Gold medal on Saturday afternoon, but none of the women’s teams from the Home Nations are either in medal contention or at risk of relegation.

Wales face battle to avoid Europeans relegation

Four men in Wales team kit, standing in semi-profile

Wales Men 2018: (L-R) Simon Pougher, Garry Coombs, Rhys Phillips, Adrian Meikle

The Welsh Men’s curling team have so far not had the week they would have hoped for at the 2018 European Curling Championships in Estonia. The hopes were initially to put in a good enough performance that they would be in contention for promotion from the B-Division of European curling – but that is now impossible this season. Despite getting off to a good start, the team now find themselves bottom of their group table with one round-robin match still to play – and even if they win, will be reliant on results elsewhere to avoid the relegation zone.

Contrasting results

It seems a contrast to the mood at the beginning of the week, when Adrian Meikle’s team beat both Slovenia and Denmark in one day. Despite Slovenia scoring early in their Saturday morning match – having the last-stone advantage in the first end – Wales generally controlled the scoreboard after that. Victory over Denmark came by stealing a score of 2 in an extra end, which made for a satisfying result especially as Denmark have recently competed in the A-Division.

However, since then, the team have had losses against England, Israel, Lithuania and Balarus. England have consistently been at the top of the group table this year, and while the close loss would have been a little disappointing it would not have set alarm bells. However, the loss to Israel – especially given Wales really struggled to score until End 7 – may have been a little concerning as Israel have been consistently at the bottom of the table. Aside from one end, Lithuania controlled the scoreboard in their game, and Belarus rather ran away with their match despite a good start from Wales.

What happens next?

Wales play Austria at 5pm GMT (7pm local time). A loss here will guarantee that Wales will finish in the bottom 2 places in Group B, and will play a formal relegation match against the equivalent team from Group A (France and either Turkey or Slovakia).

If Wales beat Austria, they will sneak out of the relegation zone if their Draw Shot Challenge score is better than that of the winner of the match between Slovenia and Israel. If their Draw Shot Challenge score is worse (larger) then Wales would be ranked 7th in their group and would still have to play a relegation battle.

What happens in the relegation zone?

There are 2 sessions for relegation matches – which happen at noon (2pm local) and 6pm (8pm local) on Friday 23rd November – the same time as the semi-finals and medal matches respectively.

In the first session, the 7th and 8th ranked teams from each group play each other. If Wales lose today, that most likely means they will be ranked 8 and play France. The loser of the 8th v. 8th game is immediately relegated to the C-Division (whose championships are played in April 2019 in Romania) and does not play in the second relegation session. The winner of the 7 v. 7 game secures their place in the B-Division and likewise does not have to play again.

In the second session, the winner of the 8 v. 8 match and the loser of the 7 v. 7 match face each other, with the victor securing their place in the B-Division for another season, and the loser being relegated to the C-Division.

Wales face Slovenia in 2018 Europeans opener

Four men in Wales team kit, standing in semi-profile

Wales Men 2018: (L-R) Simon Pougher, Garry Coombs, Rhys Phillips, Adrian Meikle

Wales return to the international Curling stage this week as their men’s team compete in the B-Division of the annual European Curling Championships in Estonia.

Wales’ men struggled for consistency last year and came close to being relegated from the B-Division in St. Gallen. The team know they are capable of better than that, and will once more have an eye on the top 3 places in their group – which would not only secure their place in the B-Division, but also a shot at medals and potential promotion to next season’s A-Division.

Changes for this year’s competition

With regular team Skip James Pougher still recovering from surgery, he will act as Coach this year, and experienced Wales curler Adrian Meikle returns to take the helm.

There is also a slight change to the format of the competition. In previous years, at the end of the competition, the winners of the B-Division would play the losing team from the A-Division in a mini-series – with the overall winners gaining a place at the World Curling Championships later in the season. This year, there is a new World Qualification Event, held in New Zealand – and both the winners and runners-up will instead gain berths there. Due to both time and cost, it is uncertain if Wales would be able to take up this place if it becomes relevant.

The Europeans themselves are still contested in three separate divisions, with promotion and relegation between them. The C-Division took place around 6 months before the A & B, with Denmark (winners) and Poland (runners-up) qualifying to play in Estonia.

Follow the team

You can follow Wales’ progress by tracking the live scores on the official event website. The team will also be posting regular updates on their own Team Pougher facebook page.

Initially, Wales will play a 7-match Round Robin in their group. If after their final Group match on the evening of Thursday 22nd Nov they are in the top 3 ranking places, they will qualify for either a quarter-final or semi-final match. If ranked 7th or 8th in their group, they will have to play at least one relegation match.

Here is a list of all Wales’ upcoming matches at the Europeans (all times adjusted to GMT):

  • Sorry, it looks like Wales have no more matches.

If you have access to Estonian TV, you may be able to see Wales play this year from wherever you are – as a local broadcaster is screening Estonia’s matches. However, as Wales and Estonia are in different groups, this is only likely if both Wales and Estonia qualify for the play-offs.

Sadly, while you can watch matches from the A-Division live on YouTube, none of the B-Division matches are due to be webcast.