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.

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).

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 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.

Wales in battle to avoid relegation

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 are now in the relegation play-offs at the European Curling Championships 2015, after failing to secure their B-Division spot in the Round Robin. The team could have secured their place on Wednesday afternoon with a win over Lithuania, but lost that match to end up 7th (out of 8) in the table.

James Pougher and his team are up against Croatia this morning, and a win here would be enough to keep Wales in the B-Division and secure a spot at the 2016 Championships in Braehead.

If Wales lose, they will still have one last chance to stay up – they would face either Belgium or Estonia at the same time tomorrow.

Should Wales retain their B-Division place, they now know which of this year’s A-Division teams will be joining them – the men from the Netherlands and Czech Republic have only 5 Round Robin wins between them.

Wales beat Hungary but need another win

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)

With any thought of promotion to the A-Division long gone, it’s now a battle to avoid relegation for Wales’ men at the European Curling Championships 2015, and they gave themselves a much better chance by beating Hungary this morning. The 10-8 victory was only secured in the 10th end, and the lead switched between the teams throughout – with the scores levelled three times after the first end.

Wales now lie joint fifth in the group table, and need a win in their final Group Round Robin match against Lithuania if they are to have the best chance of staying in the B-Division.

The fact that Wales have beaten Hungary should help them out if Hungary beat Belgium in their final match, but ideally Wales would want either Belgium to win or Turkey to beat Poland – either of those results would ensure Wales’ safety as long as James Pougher’s team win their own game.

If things go differently, Wales may need to go through a tie-breaker or directly into a relegation play-off match, which is best avoided.

Group A standings after 6 matches

# Team P W L
1 Denmark 6 6 0
2 Lithuania 6 4 2
2 Slovenia 6 4 2
4 Turkey 6 3 3
5 Hungary 6 2 4
5 Poland 6 2 4
5 Wales 6 2 4
8 Belgium 6 1 5

Wales’ final Group match (Wednesday, 3pm GMT) is against Lithuania.

Wales sit seventh after 4 matches

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)

After four matches at the European Curling Championships 2015, Wales now lie seventh in the group table. It comes after a tough day of play on Sunday – they took two losses from their matches today against Poland and Denmark.

Poland entered a totally different team to the competition this year, after their previous team finished 6th in the 2014 Championships’ B-Division. The Wales team started well by stealing 1 in the first end, but that was the only time James Pougher’s team had a lead. By the 5th end Poland had opened up a 2-shot lead at 5-3, and Poland built on that in the second half of the match, shaking after the 9th end was completed with the score at Poland 8-5 Wales.

Denmark, who were relegated from the A-Division at last year’s competition, have entered a team which retains the core players of Rasmus Stjerne (skip), Troels Harry (lead) and Olivier Dupont (Alternate, previously Second) but introduces two new players as well. A recently-relegated team playing on home ice, they were always going to be tough to beat, and when the Danish managed to take a score of 4 in the first end, Wales were always likely to struggle. Wales didn’t simply capitulate; James Pougher’s team managed to score in the second end, but when Denmark took a 3 in the 5th end the score reached 9-1 and the match was effectively over. Tournament rules meant they had to play at least 6 ends, and Wales took one more shot, giving a final score of 9-2 to Denmark.

It leaves Wales with a lot of work to do in their remaining three group matches if they want to keep their hopes of a play-off place alive, although it is still possible. At the end of the Round Robin (Thursday) it is the teams ranked 1 and 2 in each group who go through, and second-ranked Slovenia have won only three of their first 4 matches so could still be caught by any of the teams below them.

Group A standings after 4 matches

# Team P W L
1 Denmark 4 4 0
2 Slovenia 4 3 1
3 Hungary 4 2 2
3 Lithuania 4 2 2
3 Poland 4 2 2
3 Turkey 4 2 2
7 Wales 4 1 3
8 Belgium 4 0 4

Wales’ next match (Monday, 3pm GMT) is against Belgium, a team who held onto their B-Division place last year – equalling Wales’ record of 4 wins and 3 losses – but have yet to win a single game at these Championships.

Sunday at the European Championships

Sunday is now looking like a crucial day for Wales, as they really need to get at least one win from the day to have a realistic chance of making it past the group stages of the competition. They face Poland at 12:00 Central European Time (11:00 GMT) and then Denmark at 20:00 CET (19:00 GMT).

Five men in red jackets, in semi-profile

Poland’s team for ECC 2015. Tomasz Ziolo (Skip, Third), Konrad Stych (Fourth), Bartosz Dzikowski (Vice Skip, Second), Michal Koziol (Lead), Jakub Glowania (Alternate) Photo: © World Curling Federation

Poland have entered a totally different team to the competition this year, after their previous team finished 6th in the 2014 Championships’ B-Division. Like Wales, the Poles go into this match having played 2 matches, won one and lost one. Poland’s last match was a very tight win over Belgium which went to an Extra End. Belgium have yet to win a match at the Championships this year, after meeting hosts Denmark in their opening game.

Denmark, who were relegated from the A-Division at last year’s competition, have entered a team which retains the core players of Rasmus Stjerne (skip), Troels Harry (lead) and Olivier Dupont (Alternate, previously Second) but introduces two new players as well. A recently-relegated team playing on home ice, they will be tough to beat.

Five men in red jackets, in semi-profile

Denmark’s ECC2015 men’s team. Pictured (l-r): Rasmus Stjerne (Skip), Johnny Frederiksen (Third, Vice Skip), Mikkel Adrup Poulsen (Second), Troels Harry (Lead) Oliver Dupont (Alternate). Photo: © World Curling Federation

Live scores are available via the official competition website. We will also post regular updates on both the Welsh Curling and Team Pougher Facebook and twitter feeds.