Sunday, 6 January 2013

A Good Sunday in Prague

No matter at what level you watch curling -  junior, national, senior or wheelchair  - the ones who suffer the most during a game are those who are watching from the coaches' bench or bar. I have lost count of the many games where we have been stressed by a team's performance on the ice, while they go on their way to a gut-wrenching victory or suffer a last stone defeat.

Today was one of those days - not just once but twice as the England girls and boys caused their supporters to suffer the agonies and ecstasies of uncertainty before both coming through with a win.

It was boys first today and it was half time when I reached the rink, having enjoyed a slightly longer lie-in while the boys' coach, Andy Woolston, rounded them up for their 0900 rendezvous with Latvia. Last year England had beaten Latvia 7-4 and a similar score was on the cards as England led 7-1, but then, in the blink of 2 ends, it was 7-5 and then Latvia were lying peels behind a cluster of guards as Ben Fowler came to play his last shot of the game - nominated as a tap up of his own guard.

As the stone came down the ice it was running wide and an extra end seemed inevitable but instead the stone squeezed through a gap, nudging a stone on either side to wick into the rings and out count one of the Latvia stones - 7-6 to England, their first win of the week and great relief all round.

Next it was the turn of the girls to also face Latvia, a team new to the competition, and one of the most inexperienced here. Denmark had beaten them 17-1 and so on paper it looked like a comfortable afternoon at the office, but......there's many a slip etc....... and this game went right down to Hetty Garnier's last stone - she had a straightforward hit to put the game beyond the Latvians reach. Fortunately she made it and another win by just 6-4 kept England on the path to the play-offs.

A great pre-game Last Stone Draw of just 5.5 cm by Hetty also boosted their average Draw Shot Challenge, which is so vital in deciding ranking between tied teams in some circumstances. Currently their average is less than that of both Denmark and Hungary and this could be the difference between a direct path to the semi-final or a tie breaker for the second place.

Now the teams can relax for the rest of Sunday before they have a similar programme tomorrow - boys on first against Netherlands and then the girls in a vital game against Turkey.

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