NZ one of four seeking 3 WQE playoff spots

Scott Becker at WQE 2019
New Zealand's Scott Becker at the 2019 WQE in Naseby. Photo © WCF / Clare Toia-Bailey

21 Jan 2019 – Four Men’s teams – England, Korea, New Zealand and the Netherlands – are vying for three playoff spots at the World Curling Qualifying Event in Naseby.

The Women’s playoff teams are confirmed with a round still to play. Finland, China and Hungary will fight it out for the two remaining places at the World Women’s Championship.

Finland’s Women became the first team to qualify for the playoffs. They met China, the other previously unbeaten team, during the morning session on the third day of play and won 8-6, helped along by a score of 4 points in the sixth end.

Finland’s skip Oona Kauste commented, “The European Championships in Estonia was a big disappointment [for us], and we took time to decide what to do next.”

“But we decided to work hard for a month and come here. There is still work to do finally qualify for the Worlds, but we are hopeful.”

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Estonia returned to form after a couple of disappointing results with a 15-5 victory over Poland, sealed with a 6-point score in the eighth end.

“As a new team, we haven’t had that much practice together,” explained Estonian skip Marie Turmann. “Right now we really didn’t hope to get to the qualifier at all, I think one step at a time is the right thing to do.”

The other winners from Women’s morning session were Hungary, who scored 2 points in the last end to beat Brazil 8-6, and Hong Kong, who stole the final end to edge past New Zealand 8-7.

The Men played their fifth session in the afternoon, where Korea and England kept their unbeaten run going in style.

Korea beat Australia 9-0, and England accounted for Brazil 12-2.

England’s skip Andrew Reed commented after the game, “It’s a little bit surreal really. To consider that we went to the Europeans in Estonia in November, kind of went there with the mindset of not to get relegated to C Division. But we just keep sticking in and trying our best, and here we are sitting 5 and 0 so we’re very happy.”

Poland stole an extra end to pip the Netherlands 6-5, and New Zealand had an 8-2 win over Denmark.

“The guys threw really well,” said NZ skip Scott Becker. “It’s probably one of the best games we’ve played to date so hopefully we can continue that.”

Speaking of his hometown event, he added “To have 8 Men’s teams and 8 Women’s teams [here in Naseby] is absolutely superb. The coverage that we’ve had for the sport is just fantastic. I think if you win out, and you are the top two teams from this then you’ve had to scramble and compete at the top level, and you’ve earned your spot at the Worlds.”

China and Hungary sealed their playoff spots in the Women’s evening session. China secured an 8-3 win over Poland with a score of four points in the eighth end.

Their skip Jie Mei said after the match, “We have confidence now that we’ve reached the playoffs. We don’t want to be happy too early because this is not the end of the tournament, we just want to play our games and win… at the right time.”

Hungary stole the last three ends of their clash with Poland to win 12-3 and to also book their playoff spot.

“It is still our dream to qualify for the Worlds,” said skip Dorottya Palancsa. “After the first two games we didn’t play our best, so they became exciting, close games. Now we still have to develop ourselves for the playoffs and for sure we have more to come.”

The other late games were won by Finland, 8-5 over Estonia, and by Brazil, who stole the last end against New Zealand to win 8-6.

With two rounds to play in the Men’s competition tomorrow, England and Korea lead with 5 wins apiece, New Zealand are on 4 wins, and the Netherlands 3 wins. Out of contention are Poland on 2 wins and Denmark with 1 win. Australia and Brazil remain winless.

There is just one round to play in the Women’s competition. Finland, with 6 wins, along with China and Hungary (5 wins each) have already secured the three playoff spots. They are followed by Brazil on 3 wins, Estonia and Hong Kong on 2, Poland with one and New Zealand still seeking their first.

The round-robin competition concludes on Tuesday. The top three Men’s and Women’s sides will play off for the two World Championship places on Wednesday.