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.
The 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)
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)