Esbjerg Daily: European Curling Championships 2015 – Day 6

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The Scottish teams in Esbjerg keep winning – the women securing themselves a semi final tie with Finland and the men still in the hunt for a playoff spot, to be decided tomorrow.

Scotland men, skipped by Kyle Smith, began the day brightly with a 6-4 win over Joel Retornaz’s Italians.

A steal in end two and two in end four put them 4-2 up at halfway, and it was a lead they maintained as the teams exchanged ones.

Skip Smith said afterwards: “It was really good to get a two-point lead, then we just kept our noses in front.

“We had good set-ups, made our peels and took our double chances when we had them.

“We feel a lot better but need another win [later against Russia], so we have to come out firing.”

Despite a two in end two against Alexey Stukalskiy’s Russia, Scotland were in trouble at halfway, giving up a steal in end five to trail 4-2.

However, they turned it around in the last five ends, scoring three in end eight (courtesy of a superb double takeout by K Smith) and stealing one in end nine in their 8-6 triumph.

Smith reflected: “We played a really good back five, made good shots and took our chances.

“[At the fifth end break] we knew that we were playing well and it was just the odd shot in it, so we just stuck to it – we knew what we could do.

On the pivotal end eight score, he added: “[Stukalskiy] left us a wee chance with the last one, but we played a good end, we had a good set-up.

“There’s a lot more confidence in the team in making hit and rolls and freezes. It’s really pleasing.”

Going into tomorrow’s final men’s round robin draw, Norway are the only team to have qualified on eight wins and no losses.

Sweden are next on W5 L3, before five teams – Finland, Germany, Russia, Scotland and Switzerland – on W4 L4.

***

Eve Muirhead’s Scotland women faced a tough start to the day as they faced Alina Pätz’s Swiss world champions.

It got even tougher as Switzerland claimed a steal of two in end two to go 3-0 up – but Scotland hit back immediately with three in end three.

That rocked the Swiss back on their heels, and Pätz came up short on the draw to give up a steal of two in end four; a further steal of one in end five saw Scotland 6-3 up at halfway – a remarkable turnaround.

Scotland were sensible and efficient in seeing the game out, always keeping the Swiss at arm’s length to win 7-5.

Muirhead was very happy with the performance, despite the shaky start.

“It’s not about getting points back quickly, it’s taking your chances when you get them and getting on the scoreboard, and I think we did that well,” she said.

“We knew that if we put them under pressure, we were going to get little mistakes, and we had to capitalise on that, and that’s what we did.

“When we were up on the scoreboard we kept it very simple and very clean, not leaving a lot of stones lying around – that’s when teams come back at you.

“Our peel was good, Vicki Adams was excellent at second and that got us really well set up.”

The Scottish ladies then finished their round robin with a 9-4 win over Norway, who had beaten Russia and Denmark in previous games.

It was a see-saw affair for the first seven ends, the sides exchanging ones and twos to sit at 4-4.

But the game was blown open in end eight as Anna Sloan’s superb double takeout paved the way for a score of four – Scotland then stole one in end nine to win 9-4.

Muirhead said afterwards: “It was a game of patience, we swapped the hammer round pretty early on, had it in even ends which we wanted and put them under pressure.

“First things first was to qualify for playoffs, and we’ve done that.

“It’s a new day tomorrow, we need to play well but we have momentum.”

Asked whether the team was playing well enough to win the competition, coach David Hay added: “Our focus is on [semi final opponents] Finland firstly, but absolutely we are playing well enough to win this.

“Eve is one of the very, very best skips in the world and the team are supporting her really well – Anna, Vicki and Sarah have all had a good week.

“But you have to turn up in both the semi and the final if you get there.

“Finland you might look at historically and they’ve not been so dominant, but believe me this week they’ve come of age, they’re in the top four in Europe and it’ll be a big game for us.”

Elsewhere in the final round robin draw, Russia beat Denmark to confirm top spot in the standings.

Finland secured their place in the last four with a win over Estonia, and their win over Denmark earlier in the day means it is they who finish third in the standings and play second-placed Scotland, leaving the Danes to face Russia again.

***

In the B-Division games, Alan MacDougall’s England took a crucial two in end eight and a steal of one in end nine as they beat Slovakia 8-6. With one game remaining of their round robin, they are W3 L3, so sit in joint fourth in Group A.

In Group B, Wales men went down 5-2 in a tight game against Lithuania. They await tomorrow’s B-Division results to find out who they’ll need to beat to avoid dropping to the C-Division.

Finally, England women claimed a 9-3 win over Poland thanks to twos in ends three, four, six and nine.

Coupled with Italy’s win over Turkey, that result means England will face a tiebreaker against either Italy or Turkey (depending on the outcome of Italy’s game with Slovakia tomorrow) to make B-Division playoffs.

***

Tomorrow’s ECC2015 action sees the final draw in the men’s round robin for both A and B-Divisions, tiebreakers in the afternoon and then the women’s A-Division semi finals, plus men’s and women’s B-Division playoff games, in the evening.

Scotland men face Germany at 09.00 CET, and England men meet Croatia at 08.00.

Smith’s Scotsmen could be involved again at 14.00 in men’s A-Division tiebreaker(s).

England women’s tiebreaker will be at 16.00 CET, ahead of the A-Division women’s semi finals which of course features Scotland v Finland.

You can get updates via @RoaringGameBlog on Twitter and Facebook, plus shot-by-shot coverage of several games through CurlingGeek.

Eurosport and World Curling TV will televise more matches – Scotland men v Germany in the morning and either Scotland-Finland or Denmark-Russia in the evening.

For full fixtures and results, see the event website, plus photo galleries here.

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