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.
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 Belarus. 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.