Korea only unbeaten team at QRC Winter Games NZ

Joe Polo and Tabitha Peterson, USA
Joe Polo and Tabitha Peterson, Team USA

28 Aug 2019 – Korea is the only unbeaten side after five sessions of play at the QRC Winter Games NZ Mixed Doubles Curling Tournament fuelled by Forsyth Barr.

The Korean pair of Hyeji Jang and Hoseung Lee trailed early in their match against Australia 1 this morning, but capitalised on their chances to win the last three ends and take the game 8-6.

Canada beat Finland 5-3 in the same round, but the local supporters were focussed on the inter-family match-up between New Zealand 1 (Jess and Ben Smith) and NZL3 (Courtney Smith and Hamish Walker).

In a high-quality game NZL1 came back from an early deficit to win 7-6 on a close measure in an extra end.

"I think they actually deserved it a bit more," said Ben Smith. "They certainly outplayed us for most of the game. We were looking at dropping a few points when they took their powerplay, but we called a timeout and both played a pretty good rock after that to keep them to one. Then Jess played a good one in the last to earn us the extra end."

The sides play each other regularly in training. "But it felt much different today," added Ben. "It's always such a battle between family, a bit of a grudge match. They played extremely well, so it was a good game for the families watching upstairs as well".

In the afternoon session, Japan and New Zealand 2 (Holly Thompson and Anton Hood) were handed their first losses by Sweden and USA respectively, and Australia 2 picked up their first win by 8-5 over Italy. These results mean a jam at the top of the Pool B leaderboard, with four of the six teams tied on 2 wins and a loss.

The USA's Joe Polo was upbeat after their win. "We're just about getting used to everything and I think we're starting to get a pretty good feel for the ice," he said.

Commenting on their NZ opponents scoring four in a powerplay to fight back into contention, he said, "We'd played the tap of the corner guard into the house a couple of times earlier, and we thought we had the ice right – but today we missed it twice in a row and got in a little bit of trouble. But next end we got a bit of a break; they just missed a freeze, and we got a couple of rocks in good spots and were able to take out the game."

The evening sessions saw Korea continue their unbeaten streak against Canada 8-3, Finland pip NZL3 by 7-6, and Australia 1 score an 8-5 win over NZL1.

Pool games continue through to Friday morning, when the top three in each pool will continue to playoffs. The medal games will be Saturday afternoon.