Esbjerg Daily: European Curling Championships 2015 – Day 3

It was another tough day for Scotland at the European Championships, with a thumping win being followed by two defeats to quality opposition.

The morning game saw Scotland women (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid) effectively kill off Oona Kauste’s Finland in four ends.

After scoring a single with hammer in end one, they stole two in end two, three in end three and one in the fourth, getting their stones into dangerous positions and guarding up Finland’s way in.

Finland scored one in end five, but the Scots scored another one in the sixth and at that point the Finns conceded the game.

IMG_0528 (s)

After the match, Eve Muirhead said she felt her rink were starting to build momentum: “Yes, for sure. After the opening loss we came back strong, and that’s what we needed to do. Things are definitely going in the right direction.”

Scotland men (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) bounced back from a loss to Norway by beating the Czech Republic, but today they faced the current world champions – Niklas Edin’s Swedes.

Conceding three in end one meant Scotland were always playing catch up, and were 5-1 down after three ends.

They managed to pull the game back to 6-4 after six ends, putting the Swedes under real pressure with their play, but ended up losing 9-6.

After, Kyle Smith said: “They were too good for us today. We have to take the positives from the end of this game into the start of the next one.

“There’s no easy games and there’s a lot of good teams still to play, so we have to improve on that.”

Also left to rue costly mistakes early on were Team Muirhead in their heavyweight clash with Russia, skipped by Anna Sidorova.

They conceded two in end three to fall 3-1 down, pounced on a Russian mistake to level at 3-3 but then immediately gave up another two – and from there the Russians were able to keep them at arm’s length despite a lot of mistakes being made by both sides.

Muirhead was forced into an ambitious in-off takeout to try and score two to level the game in the 10th end, but could only score one – Russia winning 7-6.

The skip reflected on that game by saying: “We got off to a bit of a slow start, and against a team like that, if you do that you’re always going to struggle to come back.

“But it’s a marathon not a sprint, with several games to go, so we’ve just got to take it on the chin, keep our heads up, because there’s no point getting too disappointed.”

Denmark and Russia continue to lead the way on W4 L0 records, ahead of a gaggle of teams on W2 L2 including Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as Scotland.

As for the men, Norway are the only unbeaten team (W3 L0), ahead of Germany, Russia and Sweden on W2 L1.

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In the B-Division, England women began the day by beating Slovakia 9-2 to put them on a W2 L2 record.

England men, however, suffered an 8-2 defeat to Spain, while Wales men lost twice – to Poland 8-5 and Denmark 9-2.

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Tomorrow will see the first day of televised coverage from Esbjerg, on World Curling TV on YouTube and also Eurosport.

You can also follow games via CurlingGeek and the World Curling Federation site’s live scores.

And there will be another Esbjerg Daily right here wrapping up the day’s action, focused on the Scottish teams but taking a wider view as the qualification picture sharpens up as well.

Esbjerg Daily: European Curling Championships 2015 – Days 1&2

Scotland’s participation in the 2015 European Curling Championships is under way, with two opening losses being followed by two victories.

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid) began their campaign against the hosts Denmark on Friday, and suffered a slow start.

Lene Nielsen’s Danes scored two in end two before a steal of two in end five gave them a 5-1 advantage.

From there the Scots were always going to struggle, and after Denmark scored another two in end eight they conceded the match at 7-2.

Saturday morning also saw a Scottish defeat, this time Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) going down to the 2015 World Men’s Championship runner-up, Team Ulsrud of Norway.

Ulsrud overpowers Smith - picture: Richard Gray/WCF
Ulsrud overpowers Smith – picture: Richard Gray/WCF

Norway sprinted into a 5-0 lead after four ends, Scotland got on the board at 5-1 after five but then Ulsrud’s hit and stay scored five in end six and it was effectively game over at 10-1.

Smith succeeded in taking three from end seven, but then conceded the game after Ulsrud took one in end eight – Norway winning 11-4.

Scotland’s first win of the Championships came in some style – Team Muirhead recording a comprehensive win over Cissi Östlund of Sweden, 11-3.

Sweden scored a single in end one but Scotland took control with a four in end two and a steal of two in end three.

The teams traded twos – so it was 8-3 Scotland after five ends – before Sweden gave up further steals in ends six and seven, meaning handshakes at 11-3.

Scottish skip Muirhead said afterwards: “I’m really pleased with that – it was a really solid performance. We gave them no chances and as a team we played great, and that was what we had to do after last night.”

Team Smith also knew they needed a win, and they got it against the Czech Republic, though it was a tough battle against David Sik’s rink.

The Scots scored two in end one but found themselves 4-3 down after five ends.

The game remained finely poised until the 10th end, as the Czechs left themselves open to a hit from Kyle Smith which scored three and won the game 9-7.

Elsewhere in the A-Division round robin, Denmark and Russia lead the women’s standings with two wins apiece – Anna Sidorova’s Russians having beaten Switzerland 8-2 in their opener.

As for the men, Norway lead the way on two wins alongside Alexander Baumann’s Germany – who defeated holders Sweden 7-6. Switzerland are struggling, having lost two from two.

And of course there are B-Division matches going on as well in Esbjerg – which started on Thursday.

England women, skipped by Anna Fowler, began with a 9-7 win over Italy, but were then on the wrong side of narrow defeats to the Czech Republic (8-6) and Turkey (10-9).

Alan MacDougall’s England men opened with a 7-5 victory over Estonia and then slipped to an 8-4 loss against Israel; Wales men (skipped by James Pougher) defeated Slovenia 7-3 but then lost 9-3 to Turkey.

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Stay tuned to the Roaring Game Blog for daily updates, or check out CurlingGeek for stone-by-stone scoring – tomorrow’s games including Smith v Edin and Muirhead v Sidorova.

For all the live scores from Esbjerg, see the World Curling Federation page here, or here for the B-Division games. For photos, see the WCF galleries here.

European Curling Championships 2015: Preview

Team Smith and Team Muirhead fly out to Denmark today to represent Scotland at the European Curling Championships 2015.

What form are the Scots in, who are their rivals for medals, how does the competition work and how can you follow it? Read on…

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead (alternate)) have had a terrific start to the 2015-16 season and saw off the more experienced teams of Brewster, MacDonald and Murdoch to qualify for Esbjerg.

In tour events, they reached the semi finals of the GSOC Tour Challenge (tier 2) and Swiss Cup Basel, before winning the Edinburgh International a couple of weekends back.

The teams to beat in Esbjerg will be the finalists from the last World Men’s Championship – Team Edin of Sweden and Team Ulsrud of Norway.

Ulsrud are Smith’s first opposition at the Europeans and will be a huge test, although Smith did beat them at the Swiss Cup Basel.

Other teams to look out for include Aku Kauste’s Finland, who finished fourth behind Sweden, Norway and Canada at the last Worlds, and the Dutch team Van Dorp, who have scored some notable results this season, including finishing runners-up to Smith at the Edinburgh International.

As for Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid, Rachel Hannen (alternate)), they have significantly more experience at this level – skip Muirhead has picked up a European medal every year since 2010.

It’s been a steady season so far for the team, with a Stockholm Ladies Cup final appearance (they lost to hot-shot Team Homan) the highlight, before they saw off Teams Fleming and Gray to qualify for Esbjerg.

World champions Team Pätz of Switzerland and Team Sidorova of Russia look to be Muirhead’s main rivals for gold. Neither are in outstanding form this season, although Sidorova did make the final of the International ZO Women’s Curling Tournament last weekend.

Sweden’s Team Östlund are also contenders, as are the hosts Denmark, skipped by Lene Nielsen, who finished fourth at last season’s Europeans.

Competition format

The 10 men’s and 10 women’s teams play each other in a round-robin format from Friday, November 20 to Thursday, November 26 – with tiebreakers to follow if necessary.

The top four teams in each competition go through to the semi-finals (1v4 and 2v3) on Thursday-Friday (November 26-27) ahead of the gold medal games on Saturday, November 28.

There are also relegation challenge games for the teams at the bottom end of the round-robin standings, with B-division (featuring England men and women, and Wales men) teams looking for promotion.

For a full run-down of the division formats, see here.

Coverage

The Roaring Game Blog will be providing daily round-ups from Esbjerg, focusing mainly on Teams Muirhead and Smith but also looking at the wider picture – so watch this space.

I will also be helping out with stone-by-stone coverage for CurlingGeek here.

The World Curling Federation will have live scoring on their website, and live streaming of selected games here – and fans in Europe can watch some round-robin games and then the knock-out matches on Eurosport.