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.

First steps towards South Wales curling

At the moment, curling is only available at one location in Wales – Deeside Ice Rink, in Flintshire (North Wales). However, with recent interest in the sport from the South and the new facility in Cardiff, the Welsh Curling Association is interested to see if it is possible to develop the sport at a second location.

The WCA is therefore inviting anyone in South Wales who would like to be involved in curling in South Wales to come to an open meeting on Tuesday 6th March at the Ice Arena Wales.

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)

Four Nations 2018 preview

The Four Nations begins on Friday at Stranraer Ice Rink in Dumfries & Galloway.  The Four Nations meeting is a chance for Wales to compete against Scotland, England and Ireland for a series of trophies.  There is usually a mixture of men’s, ladies’ and mixed teams.

This time, it’s Ireland’s turn to host the tournament, and it will be held at the Stranraer Ice Rink (inside the North West Castle Hotel).

There are six matches across the weekend, with the first taking place on Friday evening.

We will keep you up to date with how our teams get on throughout the weekend.

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 top of World Mixed Group A after 2 wins from 2 matches

The Palladium in Champéry. Taken during the 2014 European Curling Championships

The Palladium in Champéry. Taken during the 2014 European Curling Championships

Team Wales (Adrian Meikle, Dawn Watson, Andrew Tanner & Laura Beever) are currently top of the Group A table at the World Mixed Curling Championships in Champéry, Switzerland.

The team started well at the Palladium by beating Croatia 6-4 straight after Friday’s Opening Ceremony. Having put in a good Last Stone Draw to take the hammer in the first end, Wales could only keep Croatia to a steal of 1 shot, but the second end was blanked. The main control in the game came from Wales’ score of 3 with the hammer in the third end, putting them 2 points ahead of the opposition. Despite narrowing the gap in the fourth end, Wales kept in the lead throughout the rest of the match.

Wales then won a close match against Hungary 7-5 on Saturday’s early evening session Despite winning the hammer, they could only take a single shot in the first end, and with Hungary taking 2 in the second it was clear Wales would have to come from behind if they were to deny Hungary victory. Wales responded well, taking 3 shots in the third end, then stealing 1 in the fourth to lead 5-2 at the half-time break. When play resumed, the two teams traded scores of 2, leaving Wales 7-4 ahead after the sixth end – and when Hungary could only take a single shot in the seventh it seemed unlikely they could overhaul Wales in the final end. Eventually, Wales ran the Hungarians out of stone, took victory and joined Finland and Israel as the undefeated teams in the session.

Wales play again at 7pm on Sunday 8th October (UK time) when they face Estonia. The Estonians and defending champions Russia are the only teams in Group A who have yet to play a second match.

Wales Skip Adrian Meikle told the WCF’s reporter after their win over Hungary that “the first half was a bit shaky at times” but that they were “very happy” to see Wales at the top of the table.

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)

Four Nations 2017 Day One

sat-1200-2In brief:

Wales 16-13 England,

Wales 7-19 Ireland,

Wales 18-6 Scotland,

The first day of this year’s Four Nations saw Wales take a small lead in their contest against England for the Kay Trophy, and build a significant lead in the battle for the Big Bertha stone against Scotland. However, there will be a significant challenge ahead for Wales if they want to regain the Hugh Meikle Trophy from Ireland, as they trail by 12 shots. Once again, it was the only day of the weekend where all Wales’ matches were of Mixed teams, although this was not true for the other nations at Greenacres. Continue reading