Naseby, 27 August 2011 – The pressure was on for the players at Naseby's Maniototo International Curling Rink during today's semi-final action at the 100% Pure NZ Winter Games.
Twelve teams were vying for places in tomorrow's Gold Medal matches in the Women's Fours, Men's Fours and Mixed Doubles competitions.
The Men’s Fours played their last round robin games yesterday afternoon. They were all very one-sided encounters, with the New Zealand teams struggling to score.
The New Zealand Juniors lost 3-11 to China, the New Zealand Men lost 8-3 to Korea and the New Zealand Seniors lost to Australia 9-1. Ian Palangio from the Australian team said, “We played pretty well and we got lucky in the last two ends as New Zealand were close to scoring multiple points. They were unlucky to just miss the final shot at each end”. Japan had the bye.
The Women’s Fours double round robin wrapped up after Friday's evening matches. The New Zealand Juniors took on China. Despite the Juniors managing to win two ends, the game was definitely in China’s control – they scored a tournament-high 6 points in the fifth end and won 13-3 at the end of the seventh. Kelsi Heath from the New Zealand team commented, “China was a difficult team but we gave it our best shot. We accidentally burned a stone on the fifth end which was drawing against six”.
Korea took on Japan. It was a close game until the fourth end when Korea amped it up a gear and won the next four ends and the game after the eighth 7-3. The New Zealand Women had the bye.
The New Zealand and Latvia Mixed Doubles teams had to play in a tie-break this morning, with the winner qualifying for the semi-finals. New Zealand scored 4 in the first end and carried on strongly, the game ending at 10-1 after four ends to put the Kiwis into the semi-finals. Dace Regza from the Latvia team was suffering from a knee injury and this is likely to have been a contributing factor to their game.
The Mixed Doubles semi-finals were held right after the tie-break. Switzerland played Japan who could do no wrong early, scoring 2 in each of the first three ends to go ahead 6-0. Switzerland won the fourth end and picked up a couple, but Japan retaliated with 3 points to lead 9-2. On the last delivery of the sixth, Switzerland had shot and two in the house. Japan also had four stones in the house. Reto Seiler delivered the last shot to pick up 2 and close the deficit to 4-9. Japan scored again in the seventh and won the game after the end 10-4.
New Zealand took on Hungary who were always going to be tough competitors – particularly considering New Zealand had already played in the tie-break mere hours earlier. Hungary opened the scoring with 3 points in the first end. New Zealand came back with 2 points in the second. Hungary answered by winning the next two ends and to give them a 5-2 lead at the fouth-end break.
A great double raise takeout by Sean Becker in the fifth helped clear the way for New Zealand to pick up 3 points and get back in the game 5 all. Hungary picked up 1 point in the next two ends putting them ahead 7-5 after seven.
It was a tense eighth end with a good number of spectators watching the game and hoping the New Zealand team could come back. It was a cluttered house with the last two stones to throw. New Zealand had shot and three more in the house, and Hungary had three in the house. On their last delivery Hungary hit and rolled their stone in towards the button leaving New Zealand still as shot but with a difficult last delivery to get the elusive 2 points. Bridget Becker delivered the stone which slightly over-curled and gave them only 1 point, so Hungary took the match 7-6 to qualify for tomorrow's Gold Medal game against Japan. Switzerland and New Zealand will play for bronze.
Tonight the Men’s Fours and Women’s Fours semi-finals will be played. In the Men’s competition the unbeaten Chinese play New Zealand, and Korea play Australia. In the Women’s Fours China play New Zealand and Japan take on Korea.
100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games continues tomorrow (Sunday 28 August) when the medals will be decided. First up at 8am are the Women’s and Men's Fours Bronze Medal Games. Matches starting at noon will decide the Gold Medals in the Men's and Women's Fours, and at 4pm the Mixed Doubles Bronze and Gold Medal Games get under way. The on-ice closing ceremony and medal presentation is scheduled for 6pm.