It’s not all about you, Scotland: The Brits in Esbjerg

 

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England women – photo: lovecurling.wordpress.com

 

This blog may have a Scottish focus, and I had at least one eye on the Scottish teams throughout their time in Esbjerg, but there were three other teams from Britain at the European Championships.

They are England men (Alan MacDougall, skip, Andrew Reed, Andrew Woolston, Tom Jaeggi, Ben Fowler), England women (Anna Fowler, skip, Hetty Garnier, Angharad Ward, Lauren Pearce, Naomi Robinson) and Wales men (James Pougher, skip, Rhys Phillips, Gary Coombs, Jamie Fletcher and Simon Pougher), all of whom competed in the B-Division this year.

I spoke to the teams about how they got started in curling, the hard yards they put in to make it to Esbjerg and how they enjoyed the Europeans experience.

So. Curling. Established in Troon and Toronto, sure, even Trondheim… but Tunbridge Wells? The setting up of England’s only dedicated curling facility in Kent was the genesis point for the current England women’s team, as they all live in the area, caught wind of it after it opened in 2004 and played on from that point.

Others have links to more traditional curling nations – Canada (Angharad Ward and Jamie Fletcher – both began playing it across the Atlantic and then took it up again in the UK) and Scotland (Alan MacDougall and Andrew Reed).

Then there’s the Olympic effect. The 2002 Games inspired Fletcher and James Pougher, while the 2010 event prompted Gary Coombs to join in at Wales’ sole facility in Deeside Leisure Centre.

Deeside, in the north east of the country, is indicative of the difficulties faced by British curlers outside of the Scottish motherland of the sport.

Fletcher, who is about 45 minutes’ drive from the facility, says: “We have it one night a week… It’s ice hockey ice – we get the ice about six hours before we play so we’ve got to prepare it ourselves, and it’s often not very good.

“So we are trying to get our own facility, we’ve been working on that for a while, but at the moment we don’t have anything.

“We do our best with what we have, but having our own facility would make a massive difference.”

England is a little better off when it comes to ice provision, and could get a lot better if proposals for curling facilities in Preston, Bracknell and Cambridge come to fruition.

The England women are hopeful that more English rinks would mean more competitive curlers for them to face, and more competitions to play in south of the border – because at the moment they play so often in Scotland that Braehead (next year’s Europeans host) is becoming like a home rink for them.

But skip Anna Fowler is also realistic about English curling’s capabilities, knowing that it’s a long term game.

She said: “When the other rinks [beyond Fenton’s in Kent] open up, it’ll take a little bit of time but maybe five years after that we’ll have some good competition and I think English curling will develop.

“But we need a couple more rinks to develop the sport. At the moment it’s not really developing loads in England.”

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England men – photo: worldcurling.org/ecc2015

The England men’s team, Ben Fowler says, “train as a team in Greenacres but don’t get much time all together”.

“This season three of us met twice for a weekend of training,” he adds.

Stretched resources meant creative approaches to funding their way to Esbjerg, paying for travel, accommodation and all the other associated costs.

While England women raised cash through crowdfunding (read more about that here), the men covered their own costs – aside from those (their car and house for the week) provided for by the English Curling Association.

Their Welsh counterparts are, says Fletcher, ‘about 98 per cent self-funded’ – with a few donations coming from people within Welsh Curling, suppliers and friends.

“No lottery funding, government funding – it’s all us,” Fletcher adds.

The problems didn’t even stop once the teams had arrived in Esbjerg either, as #broomgate made its presence felt on the teams as several brush heads were banned at short notice.

England women found they could not use any of their shipment of Goldline pads, and Anna Fowler added: “It’s been a bit of a pain because we’ve been training with the IcePad.

“We knew it might be banned, so we were only using one, but it’s been frustrating.

“We got the email when we were already here, and [England men] were on the plane when they got the first email, which is a little ridiculous.”

However, at a time when the ‘spirit of curling’ seems to be losing its way, an Olympian gave proof that it still exists – Norwegian skip Thomas Ulsrud giving England women four new broom heads.

“I don’t know how we knew that we’d had so many banned, but he came up and gave us four Norway ones, which was really nice,” says Fowler.

But it seems that the practice, funding and equipment issues are worth it for the Europeans experience.

Fletcher said this was his first Europeans, but his team-mates had all been to at least one before – and as well as the ice, food and lounge facilities being good, the biggest bonus is that the A and B-Division arenas are both on one site, which hasn’t always been the case.

As well as allowing the English and Welsh teams to go watch A-Division games between their own, it’s meant that the B-Division has been less of an ‘afterthought’, shunted off to the middle of nowhere and attracting very few spectators – the B-Division viewing area was packed four rows deep on several occasions I attended games.

On the ice, both English teams were disappointed not to achieve promotion to the A-Division, while the Welsh struggled in their group but ultimately secured B-Division status again for 2016.

England men gave themselves a shot at making the playoffs by edging into a tiebreaker with Israel, but came up short in that match.

Ben Fowler reflects: “Considering our lack of preparation this year and the tough group we were in, we did really well!

“Our goal was to get to the A division for Braehead next year. Unfortunately we didn’t manage our goal, but we did avoid relegation.”

England women played well throughout the week and reached a semi final against Italy. The game was 3-3 into end 10 and the Italian skip’s last stone picked – only to make an unbelievable raise takeout that won her side the game.

Italy went on to defeat Norway to qualify for the 2016 World Women’s Championships so England, who lost to Latvia in their bronze medal match, did well to push them so agonisingly close.

Wales finished W2 L5 in their group, but defeated Croatia 10-4 in a relegation playoff to ensure they will be alongside both England teams at Braehead in 2016.

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Wales men – photo: worldcurling.org/ecc2015

Before then, the seasons continue for these sides to varying degrees.

England men will play in the Aberdeen City Open and the Haggis Bonspiel in preparation for the English Championships in February.

For England women, Ward says, “A couple of smaller competitions in Scotland – like the Aberdeen City Open and hopefully Perth Ladies, just to keep us together as a team and keep on practising.

“But this is our major competition of the season, so it’s a shame it’s so early on in the season.”

As for Wales, Fletcher said: “We go back into our normal league playing on Monday nights. We’ve got Welsh Championships coming up in early March, so we’ll be going to that together as a team.

“But that’s it really – we don’t have any competitions lined up over the next couple of months.

“We’ve been going really, really hard in the run-up to this, probably spending more weekends in Scotland than we have at home, so we need to get back into our normal lives a little bit.”

***

For more information on English Curling, see their website here.

You can also read the England women’s team blog here, or follow them on Twitter @lovecurling.

For more on Welsh Curling, see the site here – or for more on James Pougher’s rink, read their blog here or follow @TeamPougher.

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Esbjerg Daily: European Curling Championships 2015 – Day 9

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Scotland supporters had the flags flying early, only for Russia to spoil the final party

Scotland women won European Curling Championship silver, beaten in the final by Russia, while Sweden won gold in the men’s event.

The Scots (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid) had been edged out by Anna Sidorova’s Russia in the round robin, and that was to prove the case today too.

Russia scored two in end two, but Scotland instantly responded with two of their own and the game was 3-3 at the fifth end break.

The crucial end was the eighth, as Sidorova played a superb couple of shots to prevent Scotland scoring a big end – and instead come away with a steal of one.

That put Russia 5-3 in the lead and they held firm to win the game 6-4, after an incredibly tense, tight match that swung decisively late on.

Coach David Hay said: “It was the best performance of the week from us.

“We had a couple of chances, a big chance in the eighth end – Eve makes a double takeout there and we pick up three.

“Instead we lost a steal of one – a four-shot turnaround. That was maybe the changing point in the game.

“Both teams are very good, it’s one shot here, one shot there, and this time it didn’t go for us.

“Next Saturday we’re back out to Canada for the Grand Slam of Curling event in Yorkton in 10 days’ time, so a bit of rest before then.

“We’ve had a good season so far, we keep rolling on and hope to go one better next time.”

***

Earlier in the day, Sweden, skipped by Niklas Edin, retained the men’s title they won last year, seeing off Switzerland in the extra end.

The Swedes had struggled in the group stage before knocking out Norway in yesterday’s semi finals, and started slowly here as well – Peter De Cruz’s Switzerland scoring two in the first end.

But Sweden then got into the groove that has seen them hold both European and World titles, scoring two in end four and taking the lead with another two in end six.

Switzerland, though, were not for giving up, and they scored two in end 10 to force an extra with the scores at 6-6.

However, the Swedes – holding hammer – were not unduly troubled there, Edin making a simple draw to the four foot to score one and win the title.

***

In the other games played on the final day, Denmark men beat Italy 4-2 to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in their World Challenger series – so the Danes will play at the World Men’s Championship in Basel, Switzerland, in April 2016.

The qualifier for the World Women’s Championship in Swift Current, Canada, in March 2016 were Italy. Norway tied the series 1-1 with an 8-6 win in the second game, but the Italians won the decider 8-2.

And Belgium retained their B-Division status for next year with a 10-8 win over Croatia, who drop to the C-Division.

***

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Teams lined up at the closing ceremony

The European Curling Championships 2015 has been a superb event to attend as fan-turned-journalist, with Esbjerg fine hosts and the organisation behind the event doing a great job.

More spectators would have been a bonus, but teams had vocal support from their country’s supporters throughout the week.

From a Scotland point of view, the way that the men (Team Smith) came back from a very low ebb to make a playoff tiebreaker was incredibly encouraging for their future – and in the end they only went out by a single point to eventual winners Sweden.

As for Muirhead’s women, they played well throughout the week, made an extraordinary comeback in their semi final and their silver medals represent a step up from last year – not just on the podium, but as a sign that their performances are improving.

Tak (thank you) Esbjerg!

Esbjerg Daily: European Curling Championships 2015 – Day 8

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Edin edged Ulsrud – again. Photo: World Curling Federation/Laura Godenzi

It was a Scotland-free day on Friday, but there was still plenty of action – with semi final and medal games, including England women’s shot at bronze that saw them fall just short.

In the A-Division men’s semi finals, there was a clash between last season’s World Championship finalists, Norway and Sweden.

Norway had won nine and lost none of their round robin games, whereas Sweden lost four and needed a tiebreaker win over Scotland to make the semis, but it was Niklas Edin’s Swedes who came out on top, just as they had to win the Worlds title.

Norway, skipped by Thomas Ulsrud, scored two in end two but Sweden then scored three and took two steals of one to lead 5-2 after five ends.

Ulsrud’s rink came back with a three in end seven and two in end 10 to force an extra end, but Edin made the nose hit for one and an 8-7 win.

In the other semi, Peter De Cruz’s Switzerland topped the Finnish rink of Aku Kauste. scoring threes in ends three, six and eight for a 10-4 victory.

In the bronze medal games, Lene Nielsen’s Denmark suffered their fifth defeat in a row as Finland, skipped by Oona Kauste, claimed third spot on the podium – a historic first medal for Finnish women’s curlers.

That was in large part down to a four in end five, and although Denmark scored three in end nine, the Finns held on to win 10-8.

Norway, meanwhile, won men’s bronze, shaking off the disappointment of their semi-final exit to steal two in end two and add another two in end four on their way to a smooth 7-4 win over Finland.

***

In the B-Division, survival was at stake for James Pougher’s Wales men, who knew that a win over Croatia would allow them to stay in the B-Division for the 2016 championships in Braehead.

They got off to a flier, scoring four in end one, before adding a two in end five and three in end eight to win the match 10-4 and kill off relegation fears.

That was followed by England women, skipped by Anna Fowler, taking on Latvia for B-Division women’s bronze after their agonising loss to Italy on Thursday night.

Despite taking a 5-3 lead into the fifth end break, England gave up steals in ends seven, eight and nine – a two in end 10 was not enough as they lost 8-7 and had to settle for fourth place.

Skip Fowler said: “Over the tournament, I think we played very well – we played a lot better towards the end of the week.

“Today, it just took us a long time to figure out the ice; we just weren’t really good enough today to be honest.

“A couple of times we could’ve had big ends and it just didn’t go our way.”

On whether the team had achieved its objectives, she added: “No, I would say our real ambition was to make promotion, so our loss yesterday was the one we were so, so gutted about.

“It was such a close game and there wasn’t much more we could’ve done.

“We wanted to be [in the A-Division] in Braehead next year, but another year of experience and we should be there.”

Latvia men also took bronze, defeating Israel, while Denmark men beat Austria and Italy women saw off the Czech Republic for the B-Division golds, also putting them into the World Challenger matches.

Those games (which decide the last European qualifier for the World Men’s and Women’s Championships in 2016) saw both B-Division sides win their opening tie of the three-game series – Denmark men topping Italy 7-2 and Italy women beating Norway 7-4.

***

Tomorrow is finals day!

The men’s final, Sweden against Switzerland, is from 10.00 CET – Niklas Edin’s rink looking to retain their crown from last year.

The women’s final follows at 15.00 CET, with Eve Muirhead and Scotland looking to reclaim the title they last won in 2011, as they face Russia.

The day will also feature the second and (if needed) third World Challenger games between Denmark and Italy (men) and Italy and Norway (women), plus the game to decide who joins Estonia in dropping to the men’s C-Division for 2016 – Belgium versus Croatia.

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

Eurosport and World Curling TV will televise both Sweden v Switzerland and Russia v Scotland.

For live scores from all the remaining games, see the event website, plus photo galleries here.

Esbjerg Daily: European Curling Championships 2015 – Day 7

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Down HOW MANY after three? FIVE?!? Photo: World Curling Federation

There was one almighty comeback and an oh-so-nearly game for Scotland on Thursday in Esbjerg, as the women won a remarkable semi final with Finland but the men were edged out in the playoff tiebreaker by Sweden.

Kyle Smith’s men’s team (who had to win to have a chance at making the last four) got the day off to a rip-roaring start against Alexander Baumann’s Germany, scoring two in end one, stealing two in end two and stealing three in end end for a rapid 7-0 lead!

After that, they took their ones with hammer, only gave up a couple of twos and then scored three in end nine to prompt handshakes at 12-5.

Skip Kyle Smith said: “We played a pretty good first end and then their skip, fortunately for us, missed a couple of draws and that really got us off to a big start.

“[Then] we made our peels and made sure I had a draw with my last one when we had the hammer and tried not to give them three when they had the hammer, and just kept it as clean as we could.

“It’s really pleasing to be on four wins in a row now – hopefully we can keep that going.”

Norway finished top of the men’s round robin standings with nine wins and no losses.

Switzerland beat the Netherlands to confirm their semi final place, while Finland’s extra-end win over Sweden meant they made the final four and forced Niklas Edin’s Sweden into the tiebreaker with Scotland.

A pulsating encounter saw the sides trade punches – twos and then threes – to see them tied at 5-5 at the fifth end break.

Sweden scored a two in end seven and Scotland just couldn’t get one back, so went down and out 8-7.

Skip Smith said: “We didn’t force them enough, they made some good twos. We had to do more to force or maybe steal. Disappointing in the end.”

On the competition as a whole, he added: “There’s been a lot of downs, but it’s kind of pleasing to come so close after the start to the week we had.”

Team coach Viktor Kjäll said: “They way they turned this round from being one win and four losses to being in the playoff tiebreaker, I’m really impressed with how they played the last four-five games.

“They should be really proud. It’s a great first experience and they’ll learn a lot from it to come back in future.”

***

With the men’s resolute effort over, it was down to Eve Muirhead’s women’s rink to keep the Scottish flag flying.

They faced Finland in the semi finals, a team they’d beaten 8-1 in the round robin – but couldn’t have imagined a worse start.

Oona Kauste’s Finns stole twos in ends one and two, then one in end three, to lead 5-0 – but, crucially, Scotland scored three in end four and stole one in end four.

From there the Scottish machine really kicked into gear, pulling the game back to 6-6 before a steal of two in end eight proved decisive – that put them 8-6 up and the match was won 9-7.

Skip Muirhead said: “It’s always going to be a tough comeback, but take away the first three ends and we played a fantastic seven ends.

“We knew that we could get our twos and force the ones – the three in the fourth end was a bonus.

“It just shows the fight in our team, that we stick together.

“Russia to come now; it should be a really good game and we’re looking forward to it.

“Tomorrow we have a day off, so a bit of practice in the morning and have a chilled afternoon – probably come watch the men’s semi finals – and then get ready for our final!”

Russia booked their place in the final with a 6-5 victory over hosts Denmark.

***

England men got the British teams’ day in the B-Division off to a good start, defeating Croatia 8-4 with twos in ends four and seven plus a three in end nine.

Spain did them a favour too, beating Israel to set up an England-Israel tiebreaker to make the promotion playoffs.

Alan MacDougall’s England weren’t able to capitalise on that, though, as the Israelis won 8-2.

Also in tiebreaker action were Anna Fowler’s England women, and they were successful in their game – needing a double takeout in end 10 against Turkey, Fowler made it, the win secured 8-7.

That set up a semi final with Italy in the evening – a tight game that was 3-3 after nine ends.

Italy had hammer in the final end; skip Federica Apollonio’s last stone picked, but incredibly managed a raise takeout that scored four and won the game 7-3.

The result means England miss out on A-Division promotion for next year, but they still have a match for bronze to come.

***

Tomorrow will start with Wales men facing Croatia in a relegation playoff from 09.00 CET – win that, and their place in the B-Division is secure. Lose, and they get a second chance to save themselves on Saturday.

England women play Latvia for B-Division bronze from 13.30 CET, the same time as the men’s A-Division semi finals – Norway v Sweden and Finland v Switzerland.

The A-Division men’s and women’s bronze medal matches then take place in the evening, from 19.00 CET.

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 one of the men’s semi finals, and one of the bronze medal games.

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

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.

Esbjerg Daily: European Curling Championships 2015 – Day 5

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Scotland men stopped the rot with a fine win over Finland (Photo: WCF)

It was a 100 per cent kind of day for Britain at on Day 5 in Esbjerg, with Scotland women winning their second and third games on the bounce, Scotland men finally reversing their losing run, and the English and Welsh teams all victorious too.

The day opened with Eve Muirhead’s Scotland women against Germany, skipped by Daniela Driendl.

The Scots were off to a fast start with a three in end one and led 5-3 at the fifth end break.

They scored a crucial two in end eight, and saw out the win 8-6.

Vice skip Anna Sloan said afterwards: “It was a real battle. They [Germany] are experienced and they’re solid.

“The scoreline was close but we did always feel in control and we just needed to prove that, stay solid and keep our concentration.”

Scotland men, skipped by Kyle Smith, were up next against Aku Kauste’s Finland – who have been hitting form just as Scotland were losing theirs.

But this felt like a fresh start from the Scots, putting yesterday’s disappointing losses behind them to stay in touch with the Finns, going into the fifth end break 3-2 down but with hammer.

They carried last stone advantage over into end eight, when they scored two, and then played a composed last couple of ends, cranking up the pressure in end 10 and coming away with a steal of three – and a 7-3 win.

Skip Smith was understandably relieved. He said: “[After yesterday] we regrouped and tried to play a bit simpler.

“We stuck together as a team and made the important shots.

“We came here to get experience playing at a men’s event with Scotland on our backs. So far we’ve not played well enough at all.

“We just need to keep improving from that game there and I think we can still end up with more wins than losses.”

Their coach, Viktor Kjäll, added: “The play hasn’t been that bad, it’s just a couple of key shots that we missed, and we took them here.

“Now we’ll have a little debrief and make sure we use the momentum built up from today and keep rolling. I’m looking forward to it tomorrow.”

Scotland women were involved in the evening session – but not for long, as they defeated Maile Mölder’s Estonia 10-1 in just six ends.

As in the Germany game, they started with a three in end one, then took steals of one in ends two and three.

A score of five in end six saw the Estonians concede the game. Next up for Scotland, Alina Pätz’s Swiss world champions.

Skip Muirhead said: “Our stone placement was good, top tee, which made it difficult for [Estonia] because they love to draw and freeze.

“We always have really good games with Alina and I’m sure tomorrow will be exactly the same.

“They’re current world champions so it’s going to be tough and we know we’re going to have to play well to beat them.”

Elsewhere in the women’s competition, hosts Denmark suffered their first loss, to Norway, and are now level with Russia on W6 L1, just ahead of Scotland on W5 L2.

Finland, Switzerland and Sweden (all W4 L3) are all in playoff contention.

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In the men’s round robin, Norway (today’s style of fancy pants shown above) stay undefeated but Sweden lost their second game of the week, to Switzerland.

Finland, Germany, Russia and Switzerland are just behind the Swedes, all on W3 L3, while all of the remaining teams sit on W2 L4 records.

***

In the B-Division, James Pougher’s Wales began the day with a fine 10-8 win over Hungary for their second win of the week.

England men, skipped by Alan MacDougall, picked up a very impressive 9-8 win over previously unbeaten Austria, largely thanks to a five courtesy of this terrific shot.

England women defeated their Austrian counterparts 9-4 before rounding off the day with a thumping 14-3 win over France – as they scored three in end one, four in end three, three in end four and four in end six.

Their skip Anna Fowler said: “The ice was really swingy and we figured it out before our opponents – I think that was the difference today.

“We’re in the playoff mix if we win tomorrow [against Poland], and we’ll see how other results come out.”

***

Tomorrow sees four draws played in both the A and B-Divisions.

Scotland men play Italy and Russia, while the women face Switzerland and Norway.

England men play Slovakia, the English women are up against Poland and the Welsh men take on Lithuania.

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 including Russia v Sweden (women) and Norway v Switzerland (men).

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

Esbjerg Daily: European Curling Championships 2015 – Day 4

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Scotland’s women took a comprehensive victory in their only game of the day, but the men’s struggles continue, as they suffered two defeats.

Scotland men (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) began the day against Switzerland, skipped by Peter De Cruz.

It became an uphill task for the Scots within three ends, as a steal of three in end two and one in end three propelled Switzerland into a 5-0 lead.

Although Scotland got two in end four, twos in ends five and six for Switzerland killed the game – the Scots conceding at 9-2.

Afterwards, Thomas Muirhead said: “We missed a few opportunities and they punished us.

“We just need to forget that one and try to get a win later on.”

There was a better result for Eve Muirhead and her women’s rink of Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Sarah Reid.

Against Dorottya Palancsa’s Hungary, they passed up an opportunity to score five or more in end two, but then stole three in end three for a 4-1 lead.

Further steals in ends four and five put them in a commanding 7-1 lead, and they won in eight ends by a score of 9-3.

Skip Muirhead was pleased with the win and to have improved to a W3 L2 record.

“The scoreboard made it look like it wasn’t such a good game, but it was,” she said.

“I was pleased not only with my own performance but the rest of the girls too – it makes my job easier when they play well.”

Coach David Hay added: “The girls played a lot better today, with better control of draw weight, which had been a problem.

“We had an attitude of going back to basics, focusing on the win, and it paid off.”

But there was to be more disappointment for Smith’s rink, against Jaap van Dorp’s Netherlands.

These two rinks have notched some impressive results on tour this season, but the Dutch were the outstanding team here as their wily placement and dead-eye hitting was too much for the Scots to handle.

Six consecutive steals of one for the Dutch slowly drained the life from the Scottish challenge, the match finishing 8-2.

Scotland are joint bottom of the round robin standings on W1 L4 alongside Italy. Norway, on five wins from five, lead the way, ahead of Sweden (W4 L1), Finland and Germany (both W3 L2).

In the women’s table, Denmark are the only unbeaten team left after Russia suffered a surprising loss to Norway. Finland and Switzerland sit with Scotland in joint third, on W3 L2.

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In the B-Division, there were defeats for England men (7-6 against Latvia) and Wales men (9-7 to Belgium – giving up four in end nine proving fatal to the Welsh cause).

Wales sit joint bottom of Group A with W1 L4, while England are W1 L3.

As for England women, conceding fours in ends four and five made the difference as they lost 10-6 to Latvia, but they bounced back in the evening to defeat the Netherlands 9-2, with steals of two in end four and three in end eight.

Their record stands at won three, lost three.

***

Tomorrow sees Scotland women face Germany and Estonia, while the men play Finland in between.

Wales men take on Hungary, England men play Austria and England women are up against Austria and France.

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

Eurosport and World Curling TV will again be televising matches including Sweden v Switzerland (men) and Denmark v Norway (women).

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