Wales secure B-Division status for 2017 with double victory

Wales secure B-Division status for 2017 with double victory

Wales 9-6 Spain – Boys make hard work but come out on top

Wales 8-2 Lithuania – Afternoon siesta pays dividends with comfortable win

The frosty sight of Glasgow tower blocks sprinkled with occasional lit up window and the green hue of traffic lights through the mist could not be further from the idealised picture of sunshine and sand painted by irrepressible Spanish tourist board advertisements, and the Iberians will have been left wishing for their homeland after a gruelling examination that went the distance at the hands of a Wales team facing the second of three consecutive 8 a.m. starts – and the first half of a Monday double header.

For the first time at this tournament Wales made a change to their line up, bringing in alternate Simon Pougher as Lead, joining Rhys Phillips at Second, James Pougher at Third and Adrian Meikle continuing to Skip the side that had won one and lost one at the 2016 Championship so far. A solid pair of draw shots from Rhys and James gave the Welsh the opening advantage of the hammer and, after peeling away several Spanish stones in the opening end, Adrian was able to roll in to take one.

Wales managed to get a stone in the house early in the second end and, when Spain’s attempted takeout clipped the guard, James is given the opportunity to put a second one in as well. The Spanish third atoned for his error, however, with an impressive double to clear the house and reduce the chance of Wales stealing anything. Adrian then draws into the house and the Spanish skip clips the guard, leaving his stone lying to one side of the house. Adrian removes this stone and rolls to rest, forcing the Spanish to take the only one and level the scores.

Guards went up out in front in the third, resulting in a messy end. Matters come to a head when a Welsh take out stays narrowly wide and a Spanish stone is able to linger in the house for a steal of one. Wales are able to get stones in the house early in the fourth end, whilst taking out Spanish stones but an error riddled end concludes with a Spanish take out accidentally taking off their own stone and then pulling up short with their last to leave a straightforward draw for Adrian to score four – Wales’s biggest end of the competition so far.

A split house in the fifth is opened up by another well played Spanish double but James plays a good stone of his own to keep Wales in contention right up until the end, raising a Welsh stone to remove a Spanish and rolling over into a good position. Adrian puts his two stones at the top of the house, forcing the opposition to  once again draw for one and heading into the half way interval with the score at Spain 3, Wales 5.

The sixth end presented several opportunities for Wales to take two but these were repeatedly cut out by good Spanish stones until a difficult shot well made restored the Welsh advantage to three points. A scrappy series of traded hits in the seventh leaves and the Spanish use the advantages afforded to them by the hammer in this end to cut the deficit and enter the final phase of the match just a single point behind.

Crucially, a miss by the Spanish early in the eighth opened up the possibility of another big end for Wales, widened still further by the very next Spanish stone striking the long guard. The Welsh couldn’t take advantage, however, and the following shots from Spain were all well made to restrict Wales to taking just one from the end. No real pattern developed in the ninth and it eventually took some good shot making by the Welsh to force the Spanish to take one and – essentially – to keep hold of the hammer going into what would be the decisive end.

The tenth came to life with a powerful, dynamic display of sweeping by Rhys for James’s first delivery which, although removed by the opposition was followed by another well measured effort, to leave Wales in prime position to take something from the end. Adrian then sent his first down to peel away the Spanish guard and roll to join the early stone at the rear of the house. Spain were able to draw onto the Welsh stones but Adrian was up to the challenge of removing that to leave three Welsh stones counting and no Spanish shots in the house.

Wales will have been glad to have gotten out of a number of potentially tricky situations in this game, with their superb effort to score big in the fourth ultimately the difference between the two sides. Final Score after ten ends: Spain 6, Wales 9.

Five and a half hours later, the Welsh were ready for their second challenge of the day and the chance to put valuable distance between themselves and relegation to the C Division. Well rested, the boys restored Garry Coombs to the line-up as Lead but that was the only change. The draw shot this time did not come out in Wales’ favour and they were forced to deliver first.

After initially struggling to get stones to stick in the house throughout the first end, Adrian was able to draw in to the centre and whilst Lithuania tried to remove it and roll out their shot didn’t carry enough weight and they were forced to take the one. The second end started well with guards up in front but both teams were able to navigate their stones around and into the house. Lithuania found the Welsh stubborn to dislodge and Wales were able to tap up a guard stone to join them, sending their opponents into damage control. This was unsuccessful, however, and Adrian was left with a narrow gap through which to slip another stone for four – the second time that had been achieved in the day.

Wales got two in the house early in the third, with the Lithuanians only able to chip away one of them at a time. Their opportunity came at the close of the end, however, when they finally push the Welsh out and leave the house open for a blank end. A hitting end emerges in the fourth as Lithuania fail to build any rhythm to their play, intent on settling for a blank end. The fifth and final end of the opening half sees Welsh stones staying clear of their Lithuanian counterparts and come to rest as a pair of neat corner guards, just on the edge of the house. With a draw for one the only option, the Lithuanians have are forced to go into the break 2-4 down and surrender the hammer to the Welsh.

The sixth steps up fairly early with Welsh stones wicking away Lithuanian ones to draw into the centre, before Adrian is able to bring one to rest at the back of the house and another squirts past after some muscular sweeping for a Welsh take of two. Wales put one in early in the seventh, looking throughout the end to steal and apply more pressure. At the very end, with the welsh still sitting one, Lithuania used the hammer to play a heavy draw; intending to tap the Welsh stone out but inadvertently tapped their own shot away for an unexpected steal of one – much to the surprise and merriment of the vocal Welsh support.

What would prove to be the final end started with a number of long Lithuanian guards being peeled away – including one shot from Rhys Phillips which forced both of them out wider – before Adrian could draw marvellous into the button to effectively end the contest. The result was confirmed by a handshake between the skips with the score standing at Wales 8, Lithuania 2.

That score leaves Wales on a record of three wins and just one defeat in their opening games, joint second in their group and no longer looking anxiously over their shoulders at the undesirable prospect of a relegation shoot out. Instead, the boys can look forward to the coming tests of Turkey, Israel and Slovakia with an air of optimism that is well deserved.

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 fourth after defeating Netherlands

Wales now sit fourth in the Group E table at the World Mixed Curling Championships, after playing another consistent match against the Netherlands. For the second match of the day, it was another brilliant Last Stone Draw which gave Wales the hammer, something which could prove crucial later on.

The first end didn’t go entirely to plan, and at one stage Wales were concerned they might be giving away a steal, but the team played very well for the last few stones to remove the Dutch granite from the house and lie two.

End two again had its difficulties, but the Netherlands were left with nothing but a draw to take a single shot with their last stone.

In the third end, Wales started a period of very consistent play, and the good shot-making led to a score of three.

End four took an interesting turn, as the Netherlands tried to play an aggressive end by placing lots of stones in the house. However, Wales’ hitting game was by this point well-honed and they not only hit the Dutch shot stones but hung around too, meaning when Danny van den Berg came to play his final stone of the end it was a draw against five. While the Netherlands kept themselves in contention with the score of 1, there was no doubt which team was in control at the half-time break.

The fifth and sixth ends continued in a similar vein, Wales taking a score of two in the fifth and forcing a one in the sixth. By this stage, Wales were starting to throw through with their Lead stones, in an attempt to not leave the Netherlands anything to draw behind or freeze up to.

End seven started with Wales once again throwing through and the Dutch placing guards. The Seconds again began a battle of clearance and replacement, and this continued initially with guards and then with shot stones right up until the Skips came to play their shots. Despite Wales’ stones not always running out of play or into the house, come the last stones of the end there was no doubt that Wales were in control. With a single Netherlands stone lying in the back of the house, the plan was to hit and roll out to blank the end and have hammer in the eighth end, but the stone over-curled and Wales ended up taking one. Despite this minor mistake, as Wales now led 8-3 the Dutch did not want to continue and they shook hands.

Wales now have one more match in the Group E, against Estonia on Thursday (10:00 BST, 12:00 local). If they win, they keep themselves in contention for a place in the knock-out stages, dependent on the overall Draw Shot Challenge figures.

Wales beat Slovenia, face Dutch later

Wales play two matches at the World Mixed Curling Championships today (Wednesday), and went into the day aiming to take a win from both. The team know that they can no longer secure a spot in the knock-out stages unless other match results go in their favour, but without winning the remainder of their games that will almost certainly not matter. Both of today’s matches are ones that the team knew they should have a reasonable chance at, against the Netherlands (on the late afternoon session) and Slovenia in the early morning draw.

Wales started well against Slovenia, with their best overall Last Stone Draw of the championships to give them last stone advantage, which was put to good effect when despite not starting the end exactly as planned Wales threw some good stones to take a score of three.

Wales played well throughout the match, forcing a score of one in the second end, then scoring two more in the third before consistently stealing until the sixth end.

There were some moments in several ends when it seemed Slovenia might have a chance of taking a shot or two, but they never worked out. This was not least in the fifth end, when several well-guarded red Slovenian stones were clustered around the button. A couple of attempts by Wales to draw or freeze one of their own in there were heavy, and the last one took a slight bounce, leaving Slovenia a shot to remove the yellow stone and lie three, but it over-curled and actually removed their own stones from the shot position.

Speaking after the 8-1 victory, Wales skip Andrew Tanner said, “the team did very well. It’s a great victory, it gets us back on track. We’ve got a couple of games left to go so hopefully we can keep producing this for the last two games.”

On the subject of making the play-offs, he added, “We need two wins definitely with our last two games, we hope to get through to the play-offs, but we need to concentrate in our next game which is against the Netherlands this afternoon.”

Turkey still unbeaten after Wales loss

It was a disappointing morning for Wales as they struggled to keep their play at a high enough level to overcome unbeaten Turkey.

The match started well, as Wales managed to secure the last stone advantage and then set the first end up well. The result was a score of score of two, although if a hit-and-roll attempt had worked better then Wales should perhaps have taken three from that first end.

Another good end followed, with Wales managing to force Turkey to take a score of just one.

Wales could only take a score of one with the hammer in end three, and then came Wales’ downfall: the fourth end.

The start of the fourth end was fairly standard, with Wales looking to steal by placing centre line guards up. However, Turkey drew behind them, and when Wales attempted to hit and roll the shooter was left exposed, meaning Turkey could attempt the same shot, which they did successfully.

Wales then tried to remove the guards, and while the existing stones were cleared the shooter was left in place, meaning Turkey could safely keep drawing stones into the house. Wales tried to draw into the house twice but struggled with the correct weight, so when Andrew Tanner came to deliver his last stone there were five stones counting for Turkey. The attempted double-takeout didn’t quite work out, so despite missing their final draw Turkey were able to take a score of four.

Despite attempting to turn things around in the second half of the match, Turkey continued to keep control, and with Wales’ aggressive tactics not working out in the seventh end they shook with the score at 11-4 to Turkey.

Wales play two matches on Wednesday, the first one in the morning (06:00 BST, 08:00 local time) against Slovenia, and the second an afternoon game (14:00 BST, 16:00 local) against the Netherlands. It is now unlikely that Wales can qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition, but depending on other results, a win in all three of their remaining matches would still leave a chance.

Wales fall to consistent Swiss

Wales have to dust themselves down after coming up against a very consistent performance from Switzerland.

The match started well, as despite losing the Draw Shot Challenge Wales set the first end up with good guards and draws placing pressure on Switzerland. However, one mistake meant Switzerland managed to take two shots from that end.

After that things began to run away from Wales, as Switzerland then stole another score of two in the second end.

Wales suffered from ice that appeared to run slightly straight in the third end, as Switzerland eventually got three shots counting before Andrew Tanner threw his final stone down to freeze onto the shot stone and take a single shot for Wales.

Only three shots behind and attempting to steal, Wales tried to play the standard guarding tactics, but the Swiss continued to clear well and in the end decided to blank the end.

After the half-time break, Switzerland managed to keep control, only allowing Wales to score a single shot in end 6, and when Switzerland took two in the seventh end it brought Wales’ deficit to 6 shots. This being too much of a task, Wales offered the handshake.

Wales were not consistent enough to compete at the level they had hoped for, and Switzerland played to a good standard, missing only one significant shot in the entire match. Wales need to play well in their remaining matches as they will need to win all their remaining games to have a good chance of qualifying for the knock-out stage.

Wales’ next match is on Tuesday morning (06:00 BST, 08:00 local time) against Turkey, who have yet to lose a match at these championships.

First win of 2016 World Mixed for Wales

Emily, David, Laura and Andrew with the score from their first win at the 2016 World Mixed Championships

Emily, David, Laura and Andrew with the score from their first win at the 2016 World Mixed Championships

Wales are now mid-table after their first victory at the 2016 World Mixed Curling Championships. It marks not only the first victory for Wales at this venue in Kazan, but also three personal firsts.

The win over Croatia, which came after the full eight ends led to tied scores and an Extra End, was the first win at a WCF International event for Andrew Tanner in his new capacity as skip. It also marked the first victory at this level for Emily Sandwith (Lead) and David Peek (Second).

Wales had a better chance at the Last Stone Draw in this match, as while Croatia covered the centre circle of the house with one stone, their second draw shot was far too heavy. Unfortunately, Wales were unable to better Croatia’s combined score from the Draw Shot and so started first again.

Wales were somewhat unlucky in the first end, as Croatia managed to make a double-takeout shot completely by accident, leaving the way open for their score of 2. From then on, Wales generally had the upper hand in the match but failed to inflict a killer blow. There were some good shots but it was a struggle to string enough together to build pressure, meaning by the close of the seventh end Wales still only led 6-4.

End eight started fairly well for Wales, with a shot stone and a guard in place, but some imperfect shots from Wales and decent play by Croatia meant Wales were at risk of giving up a score of three and losing the match when Andrew Tanner came to play his last stone. The shot called was to come around the Croatian guard and remove the shot stone from play – but the stone drew too much and caught the edge of the guard, and if it had swung any further there was a risk the guard could have been promoted into the house. Croatia played a good draw and took two shots to level the match.

The Extra End started well for Wales. They kept the end as clean as possible, removing any stone in the house and clearing guards once the fifth stone was in play.

There was one moment when Wales got a bit of good fortune, when a clearance shot hung wide and somehow caught enough of the Croatian shot stone to remove it from play. Although it was behind the tee-line and so would have been useful to draw up to, removing that stone meant that when Andrew Tanner came to play his final stone all it needed to do was to bite the 8-foot circle. With a little help from the sweepers, the stone made it to the right spot and Wales took a win by 1 shot.

Speaking after the win, skip Andrew Tanner said “The opposition played really well. It was a very close game, it went back and forth between the two teams and in the end went to an Extra End. I think we just managed to build that last end up and keep it open so that I could draw the winning shot in, but it was a very close game. It could have gone either way.

“We would love to get through to the quarter-finals, and at that point it is anybody’s game. We have lost to Germany already, who are a very tough team. We have the Swiss tomorrow who we know will be another tough game, and I think if we can get a few more wins then who knows – we might be there for the quarterfinals. I think that would be our aim, we will see how far we get in the competition.”

The result puts Wales in a mid-table position in Group E, level with Switzerland who lost against Germany on the same session.

Wales’ next match is on Monday morning (10:00 BST, 12:00 local time) against Switzerland. The team hope that they can raise their game to have a competitive match.

Wales look to Croatia game after loss

Wales next to hosts Russia at the Opening Ceremony of #wmxcc2016 – photo © WCF

The Wales Mixed Curling team are looking towards their second match of the 2016 World Mixed championships with some confidence; that’s despite losing out 7-3 to the German team in their opening match.

Germany started well by “touching the button” twice with their Last Stone Draw, giving Wales a tough challenge – and with the extremely fast ice at Kazan it proved too difficult to beat, meaning Germany took the hammer advantage in the first end.

However, the match got off to a good start when in end 1 Wales managed to restrict Germany to scoring just a single shot. Unfortunately, the second end was a struggle especially with some stones hung wider than expected, and Germany ended up extending their lead to 3 shots.

Looking for a score of 2 in the third end, Wales got off to a good start with some very good guards, and when Laura Beever played her second shot, a draw behind a centre guard, it seemed like the end was set up. However, Germany played a perfect freeze onto the Welsh shot stone and other than Wales guarding against any possible raise by Germany it proved impossible for either team to improve on that situation.

At the half-time break, Germany led 4-1, and end five took a similar route to end 4, both teams playing well enough to force just a single shot.

Wales decided they had to make a move in the sixth end, as they were beginning to run out of ends to catch Germany. Wales initially laid the standard initial guards and Germany drew into the house rather than attempting the tick-shot while the Free Guard Zone still applied. After that, Germany attempted to clear them, and at one point Wales debated whether to remove the German shot stones from the house or to replace the centre guard. The decision was made in favour of the guard, but Wales fell victim to the speed of the ice and the stone sailed through the house, setting Germany up well for a critical score of 3.

Wales could only take a single shot from end 7, and as it was unlikely they would steal 4 in the eighth end the teams shook hands with the score Germany 7-3 Wales, a scoreline that was a fair reflection of where most of the control of the match lay.

Germany were always going to be tough opponents – like Wales they have previously won the (now defunct) European Mixed championships, and the team were slightly disappointed but not surprised to be beaten. There was a good mixture of positives and items to work on for the next match, which is on Sunday morning (10:00 BST, 12:00 local time) against Croatia. The team hope that play at a similar level will give them a fighting chance in that match.

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.