St Gallen round-up from the men’s team

Read Andrew Woolston’s round-up of their week in St Gallen for the 2017 European Curling Championships.
St Gallen was to be the location for the Europeans this year, making it my fifth time in Switzerland representing England.
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Alternate: James Whittle Lead: Fraser Clark Second: Scott Gibson Third: Ben Fowler (vice-skip) Fourth: Andrew Woolston (skip) Coach: Ken Horton

The competition is getting harder and harder, with the margins for error getting increasingly smaller. We were drawn in a section with Finland, Spain, Latvia, Belgium, Estonia, Hungary and Israel. All teams bar one had either been in the A division or in the playoffs to go up in the last four years. It was going to be a tough week.
When we joined together as a team 18 months ago we had the main aim of representing England in a European competition, if we were successful we would primarily aim to gain experience and stay in the B division. To do this in our group was going to be very hard, none of our opposition would be a walk over.
After a nervy start we managed a win against Belgium with our last stone. We were three down after three ends but hung in until the end. Finland were next up and the game was very tight, Aku Kauste made at least three great doubles to keep his team slightly ahead. His last stone in the tenth end was a perfect hit and roll behind a centre guard to force a tough draw to try and steal.
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Photo: WCF

Despite controlling our next game with Israel right through, a miss with my last stone cost us the game. A loss which should have been a win. To stand within a chance of not being in the bottom two we needed another win. Estonia would be the closest game with it going to an extra end caused by two complete misses by myself! In the extra my first tap attempt picked up twice, firstly to look as though it was going to raise them in, then to pick again and miss both shots and sit biting the 8 foot on the wing. I would later use this stone to hit and roll for the win.
Going into the last game we were in a good position to secure B division status for 2018. We needed two good LSDs, a win against Latvia or Hungary to win. Fraser was first up with his LSD and covered the button, Ben then threw his and copied Fraser’s effort. With the main aim of the competition complete and no chance to qualify for the play offs we played Latvia and enjoyed it, rotating Ben out and Jim in on end 6. Now to enjoy ourselves and watch the A division games.
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Photo: WCF

Back home, we continue our training both at Greenacres and the National Academy in Stirling. We have a few events coming up and a busy week with all of our rearranged league games in three days.
We would like to thank our coach Ken Horton for his efforts over the past year, without it I doubt we would be where we are. We would also like to thank Richard Harding at Greenacres for his accommodating ice schedule, Tony Zummack for his technical assistance during the summer and all who supported us throughout the competitions, both in person and on the other side of a screen. Finally, we would like to thank TLDallas for their support this season, it has been greatly appreciated and has eased some of the financial burden.
Follow the men’s team on social media:
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In Profile

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World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

Welcome to another interview in the ECA In Profile series. Today we’re looking back at the long and successful career of England player, Kirsty Balfour. Kirsty has achieved most of her successes whist representing England as part of the England Ladies Team, but most recently played as lead of Team Woolston at the World Mixed Curling Championships. She will also play in the national championships this season, competing to once again represent England.

So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in!

 

Position in team: Lead, I’ve played them all but favour Lead or Third

Years Curled: I started playing in 1990

How did you first get into curling?

My dad curls so I used to go along to watch him and play with the stones at the end of the rink.  When we moved from East Lothian to the Borders I could take curling up properly as we only lived 15 minutes from the ice rink.

Where do you now play most of your curling?

Border Ice Rink in Kelso

What is your best curling memory?

I have so many happy curling memories but the 1998-1999 season was a special one.  I was in my final year at university and wasn’t supposed to play that season.  I ended up joining Sheila Swan’s team in the December where we went onto win the Lockerbie Juniors and made the semi-finals of the Scottish Juniors.  I then played 3rd to Neil Joss and we won the Scottish Mixed Championships in our then home ice rink, the old Aberdeen Ice rink in Dyce.  Not a bad season for someone who wasn’t meant to play!

What has been your proudest moment whilst representing England?

Winning the European ‘B’ Division in 2007 in Fussen with Caroline Reed, Joan Reed, Claire Grimwood and Sarah McVey. This was my first year playing skip so was probably my most relaxed year as I put no pressure on myself. The following year we managed to maintain our position in the ‘A’ Division which was also a proud moment.

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2007 European Championships B Division winners – Claire Grimwood, Caroline Reed, Kirsty Balfour, Joan Reed and Sarah McVey

Who is your inspiration?

I wouldn’t say there is just one person who inspires me.  On a daily basis I am inspired and motivated by my family, colleagues, friends and patients.

Who do you think the best curler in the world is?

When I was playing ladies it would have to be Anette Norberg.

Describe your pre-match routine.

I’m pretty laid back with my pre-match routine.

  • Before heading to the rink, check my bag a number of times to make sure I have all my kit
  • Get to ice rink get organised
  • Little bit of stretching
  • A few minutes of thinking and a good chat with team mates

Have you ever had a curling related disaster?

No real disasters, but there has been many an adventure trying to get to the Europeans over the years.  The most memorable one was getting to Ornskoldsvik in 2008 which involved our flights being cancelled from Newcastle due to a snowstorm.  We then spent about 6hrs in the airport playing arrow words (Caroline Reed’s favourite) and watching the mini snowplough trying to clear the runway. We ended up having to fly to Stockholm via LHR where we then had to stay in an airport hotel in bunk beds before flying onto Ornskoldsvik the next day.  Needless to say our bags and “Boris” our broombag didn’t arrive at the same time as us!!!

Do you have any tips for juniors and less experienced curlers?

  • Get as much on ice experience as you can be it practice or game time
  • That some losses are going to hurt but ultimately the wins will come
  • It’s a sport and things are sometimes not going to go your way
  • We play it because we love the sport

What do you do when you aren’t curling?

If I’m not working or on-call for work I try to play as much golf as I can, catch up with friends, a bit of reading and going to live music events.

What are your strengths and weaknesses on the ice?

  • Having played in all positions I have a good understanding of the game and like to think that I can play well in any position.
  • Understanding that sometimes it just isn’t your day
  • Ability to see plan A-Z
  • Now that I play lead keeping a calm head and being the team motivator, though I’m not sure if the others would agree!

My weakness used to be the out-turn but having played with Andy for the past 4 years it’s now not an issue!! I rarely get to play an in-turn now!!

What do you love about curling?

I love being part of a team, the tactical side of the sport and the many friends and memories I’ve made over the years.

KB

In Profile

Here it is… The one you’ve all been waiting for… An In Profile special with ECA Treasurer, 110-time England player and all-round curling-expert – John Brown!

John has not only had a long and successful career as a player, both in England and Scotland, but has also dedicated an admirable amount of time to the running and up-keep of English Curling. Read on for insight into John’s 50 years of curling experience and many years at the forefront of English Curling.

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Name: John M L Brown

Position in team: I have played in all positions in a team – much of the time nowadays I am skip in the various teams I play in, but as a junior lead was my best and favourite position.

Years Curled: I first started curling in 1967 and so I am starting my 51st season though I had a 5 year break in the early 1980s. Have been involved in English Curling since 1982.

How did you first get into curling?

The school I attended in Glasgow was across the road from an ice rink and curling was one of the sports offered to pupils from Year 9 upwards. From the list of rugby, cross-country running, swimming, rowing, ten-pin bowling, curling and chess my choice came down to ten-pin bowling or curling – as the curling was cheaper and much closer to school I gave it a try and the rest, they say, is history!

One of the first people I played with was Ken Bruce – the Radio 2 disc jockey who was a pupil at my school

Where do you now play most of your curling?John Brown

I actually play most of my curling in Scotland at various competitions. I live about 120 miles from Fenton’s Rink in Kent and play there once every two weeks on average but over a season I probably play about 70% of my games in Scotland.

What is your best curling memory?

Winning the RCCC Rink Championship, the premier club championship in Scotland while still at school. The total age of our team was 62 which was the age of one of the players we beat in the final. This got us into the National Sunday papers in Scotland.

What has been your proudest moment whilst representing England?

On the ice there are two which I rate equally – qualifying for the World Championship in 1985 and finishing 4th in the World Senior Championships in 2005. We only lost in the semi-final to the USA by 4-2.

As a member of the ECA, it was hearing that our Junior Women had qualified for the World Championships by winning the European Junior Championships. These were girls I had helped develop from their first steps on the ice and now they were achieving a dream for a country with such a small curling membership and few facilities.

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John Brown with the 2015 European Junior Championships winners

Who is your inspiration?

Sir Chris Bonington the mountaineer and explorer continues to climb and travel in his eighties and he has filled his life with so much adventure that I can only stand back in amazement to think that so much can be achieved. You are never too old to climb Everest and if I can continue to curl at a good level as long as he has climbed then I will be happy.

On a curling rink I have always been a great admirer of my skip at school, Graeme Adam, who has achieved every honour in Scottish Curling and represented Scotland at all levels from Junior to Senior.

Who do you think the best curler in the world is?

It would be easy here to say that it must be Brad Gushue as he is World Champion but taking a wider look at a lifetime’s achievements by someone who is still playing then it must be Glenn Howard of Canada.

I played against him in the 1987 World Championship and then there he was 25 years later winning the Championship again in 2012. That is an incredible length of time to be able to compete at the very top level and proves that it is not just the physical strength of youth that makes a great curler.

Describe your pre-match routine.

Arrive at rink, change shoes and trousers and go onto the ice. Afraid I have no physical warm up routine though at my age it is probably needed more than many years ago

Have you ever had a curling related disaster?

On the ice the most disappointing time was losing out on the chance to return to the World Championship in 1986 after we were eliminated in a play-off against France. While we managed to qualify again the following year I can still remember how devastated I felt that we had lost.

One year, when organising the English Championships, I arranged for a meal to be available at the Ice Rink (Perth) for all the players and supporters after one of the games. When it came to the time to eat nobody wanted to partake because they were playing another game just a couple of hours later! A lesson learnt so that now when organising championships I only deal with the games, the players can organise their own meal breaks!

ECC 2011 B 94 Bronze medalists

Do you have any tips for juniors and less experienced curlers?

While we all like to look as though we are the World Champion when delivering a stone remember that it is not how you look but where your stone ends up – as in golf, every player has their own delivery (swing) and as long as it works for you then it is a good delivery.

The best shot you will ever play is the next one – don’t look back and say I could have done better, look forward and say I will do better.

What do you do when you aren’t curling?

During the curling off-season I spent a lot of time going to watch all forms of motor racing (except Formula 1 which is not really racing!) all around the country. I have an extensive library (a large part of which is about motor racing and exploration/climbing) which always provides me with something interesting to read and I have recently resurrected my interest in stamp collecting.

I have an interest in a diverse range of music and go to festivals/concerts regularly and I have a comprehensive collection of LPs and cassettes as well as CDs.

I also see myself as the unofficial archivist of the ECA and maintain a pretty complete record of most things to do with the sport in England!

I can also be persuaded to help look after our garden, do the odd domestic chore etc.. My wife still works and so I currently act as a bit of a househusband!

What are your strengths and weaknesses on the ice?

STRENGTHS

  • Ability to play in any position in a team and to be happy playing in that position
  • Knowledge of many game set-ups and situations from years of playing
  • Able to recognise when it is my fault that my stone has not finished where I wanted it to be, and not the fault of the sweepers/skip
  • Able to sweep on both sides of the stone – helps if the other sweeper is only able to sweep on one side

WEAKNESSES

If I told you my weaknesses then I would have to kill you so as not to reveal them to others!

What do you love about curling?

I love the thrill of being able to deliver a large lump of rock with delicacy to a specific point on the surface of a sheet of ice. The thrill of drawing precisely to the button or of hitting and getting a perfect roll never leave me – even more so these days as they seem to happen less often!

The only people I am still in touch with from my school days are those I curled with – you have a long life in the sport if you want it – it is maybe a cliché but you CAN play curling from 8 to 80 and play it with the same people at either end of your playing days, even if some of those have gone off and become World Champions. It gives me a few more years to keep on playing and hoping to win!

 

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John M L Brown bio

Currently Treasurer, World Curling Federation representative and Competitions Convenor for the English Curling Association (ECA). Previously President and Secretary of the ECA and also Chairman of the British Curling Association in the lead up to the 2006 Olympics.

Scottish Schools Champion 3 times, Scottish Rink Championships winner, English National Champion 4 times, English Senior Champion 3 times and English Mixed Doubles Champion once.

Represented England at 12 European Championships, 2 World Championships and 9 World Senior Championships and coached a variety of teams at Senior, Junior, Mixed Doubles and National level.

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Team Woolston round-up from World Mixed Championships

Andy Woolston was back in Champéry for the third time competing for England, this time with the England Mixed Team at the World Mixed Curling Championships. The team was Andy Woolston, Lesley Gregory (vice skip), Martin Gregory, Kirsty Balfour and Coach Yvonne Gibson.

World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

Skip Andy gives his account of the event which took place last week…

On my third time in Champéry, I had the pleasure of playing in the Palladium rather than the Ice Hockey hall in Monthey. The week started with a bye as Italy had withdrawn and China was a late addition and therefore moved across to their section. We were due to play China first which meant we had a practice session instead. The practice before the competition was only 30 minutes on one sheet rather than the usual 10 minutes per sheet, this was also on the sheet we were due to play our first game on, which we now had a bye. So all the time you usually have to look at stones wasn’t there and we also weren’t due to play that sheet again!

World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

Midday on the Sunday was the bye, ice was really swingy caused by frost and no de-humidification. When we had the first game against Turkey the following day, we were on the sheet they had already played, and practiced on. We were slow and sluggish and the result proved this, 8-2 in their favour.

World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

Next up, 8 am the following day was Canada. The game was tight with them forming a healthy lead before I made a double raise to lie shot and the Canadian skip trying to double it out and pushed us in for second. We stole the following end by another mistake by the Canadian skip after Andy hit and rolled to freeze to a shot in the 1 foot. It all came down to the last end where we were left a draw to the one foot for the win, I was slightly heavy and didn’t rub enough of their shot to just roll too far.

World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

Poland were next up the following day at 8am again. We played well but the game was lost when we rolled the wrong way against two, really unlucky to lose the steal especially so late on.

World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

By this point we were tired and a little frustrated, we felt as though we deserved a win and knew we had to win the rest of our games to stand within the smallest of hopes to qualify. Germany were up later that day and after a good lunch and some rest we came out playing well. Everyone knows how good Andrea Schöpp is and you just can never let your guard down.  We went into the last end one up playing for a force. After 15 shots we were lying five and were well guarded. Andrea played a great double attempt but rolled too far. Finally a win we had craved and deserved.

World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

No more morning games was great, normal waking up times and no rushing about. We played Australia at 16:00 on the Wednesday. They were down to three players as Kim had injured her ankle taking a photo! They had taken Canada to an extra end so we knew they were going to be tough. The ice was as swingy as usual, but they struggled with one sweeper. We played well and Hugh was forced to draw against five and unfortunately came up short. Win two was on the board and we were one step closer to qualifying.

Holland was our last game and without a win so far, were to be the easiest opponents in our group. They played well and we were forced to work hard for the win. We had now done all we could to qualify and were waiting on the following two sessions for results to go our way.

World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

Firstly we needed Estonia to beat Croatia to put Wales in fifth, they had a better DSC than us. This went down to the last shot after the Croatian Skip has jammed his last stone forcing an easy draw to the 8 foot for Estonia to win by one. Next up was group D which by this point no one had qualified out of yet, five teams were on 4-2 record and four of them were playing each other. All we needed was Switzerland and Norway to not finish fourth as they had far superior DSC. JB worked out there were 8 possible outcomes and three were bad for us. Israel were beat comfortably by Finland which all but secured our qualification. Switzerland lost in an extra end which put them fifth.

World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

We qualified in 16th position and therefore drew the top seed, Norway. They had two losses but the best DSC ranking them higher than Korea, Sweden, Canada and Russia who were on no losses. The game started well with us having an open hit for two, but it was slightly too heavy and we only took a one. The scoring went with the hammer and Norway took a big three when we flashed a double attempt.

World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

In end six we were up against it with Norway making everything. We were facing a big end and truthfully we had accepted it prior to our last shot. We had just over 3 minutes left but weren’t bothered as we thought it was the last end. We peeled four shots out the house and sat for second shot, the Norwegian skip then threw his draw through the house. All of a sudden we were still clinging on. End seven was speed curling and two further misses from their skip allowed us to open hit for two. Peels going down to the last end, we played a great end and forced them to pick our shot off the button twice.

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As our first international competition as a team it couldn’t have been better. We had a tough start and took a while to get going but the wins and good shots started coming and we relaxed into the games. Qualifying for the last 16 was a great achievement given how tough our group was, giving England the highest finish in the World Mixed Championships to date.

A big thank you to everyone who supported and an especially huge thank you to our sponsors – the Flower Bowl and Ryman.

World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, Champery, Switzerland

All photos courtesy of the World Curling Federation.

 

 

The ECA national championships entries are in!

Senior Women (1 entry – no Championships)
  • Judith Dixon, Joan Reed, Helen Forbes
Senior Men (2 entries – best of 5)
  • Phil Atherton, Mike Spain, Alastair Fyfe, Steve Amann, John Brown
  • Graham Stanley, Richard Jachnik, Phil Townsend, Bill Brampton
Women’s Championship (2 entries – best of 5)
  • Anna Fowler, Hetty Garnier, Lorna Rettig, Naomi Robinson, Kirsty Balfour
  • Lisa Farnell, Sara Jahodova, Niamh Fenton
Men’s Championship (7 entries – single round-robin and Final)
  • Andy Taylor, David Barton, Jacob Whittle
  • Andrew Reed, Michael Opel, Jamie Malton, Tom Jaeggi
  • Greg Dunn, Jonathan Braden, Ian Gasson, Jonathan Havercroft
  • Andrew Woolston, Ben Fowler, Scott Gibson, Fraser Clark, Jim Whittle
  • Owen Rees, Stephen Lea, Harry Pinnell
  • Stephen Hinds, Ethan Conlin, Steve Amann, Tristan Hughes
  • Stuart Brand, Martin Gregory, Mike Spain, Harry Mallows
Mixed Doubles (5 entries – double round robin and final)
  • Anna Fowler, Tom Jaeggi
  • Andy Taylor, Jacqui Taylor
  • Stuart Brand, Angela Wilcox
  • Owen Rees, Annabelle Martin
  • Harry Pinnell, Olivia Millar

World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships by Anna Fowler

Ben and I are about to board the plane to Canada for the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships in Lethbridge, Alberta. We fly from Heathrow to Calgary and then will drive two hours south to the city of Lethbridge where the event will be held from 22nd-29th April.

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As Team England, we will play teams from France, Kazakhstan, USA, Turkey, Germany, Czech Republic and from the host nation, Canada. The top three teams from each group will go through to the knock-out stages to compete for points to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang (February, 2018). As part of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) any Olympic points gained by England cannot be kept, but we will be looking to better our 8th place ranking from last year whilst cheering on Scotland who are the points earners for Great Britain’s Olympic qualification.

We are delighted to announce that we are being supported during these championships by sponsor, Henson Franklyn, British sports events and exhibition specialists based in England. They’ve been in the business for 25 years and their focus on marginal gains closely matches our team and work ethic. Curling is a precision sport which is often decided on millimetres – we do whatever it takes to ensure we come out on the winning side of games.

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Proud to be part of Team HF

Our scores will be live on the World Curling Federation website: http://www.worldcurling.org/wmdcc2017 and our games vs the USA and hosts Canada will be live on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/WorldCurlingTV.

You can take a look at our schedule below and keep up to date with our progress on twitter @annaefowler and @benwfowler!

Schedule WMDCC2017

ECC Round-up

The European Curling Championships held at Braehead, Glasgow proved to be a week of mixed fortunes and missed chances for both of the England teams. Alan MacDougall led his men’s side to their seventh and last appearance at the Championships in their existing format, and Hetty Garnier stepped up to skip the ladies for the first time at senior level.

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The teams at the opening ceremony – Photo: Peter Bell

The ladies team saw one line-up change going into the championships with 2015 European Junior Challenge champion, Hetty Garnier, leading the team. Anna Fowler played third, Angharad Ward second and Naomi Robinson and Lauren Pearce alternated in the lead position.

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The girls on the ice – Photo: Graham Peters

They started the week well with a convincing win over Slovakia and came out on top of a close game with Poland. On the second day of play, the ladies played a strong Belarus side and recorded their first loss. This game coincidentally happened to be both Anna and Angharad’s 100th game for England but this didn’t appear to bring much luck to the girls! They overcame Latvia that evening putting them on a record of 3-1.

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Anna and Angharad’s 100th game

The following day the ladies played a tough game against the Netherlands with skip Marianne Neeleman on fantastic form. This represented their second loss in an extra end but was made up for quickly with a convincing win over old rivals, Turkey, that evening. This meant that wins would be needed against group leaders Estonia and Hungary in the next two games.

The girls fought hard and had two heart-breaking losses on the last stone in both games, both in an extra end. This meant a win against Lithuania was needed to give them hope of a tiebreaker for 4th place and a chance to play in the semi-finals for promotion. Thankfully they achieved this in yet another extra end!

Their tiebreaker was a rematch against the on-form Dutch side and saw the English ladies in the driving seat until the 9th end. A two taken by the Dutch tied the score up at 7-7 meant a clean end was needed in order to win the game with the last stone. Despite playing a great end, it just wasn’t meant to be and the game was lost on a matter of centimetres. So that spelled a disappointing end to a competition characterised by losses that could have just as easily been wins.

Congratulations to Hungary and Turkey who qualified top of the group and then both won promotion to the A Group for 2017.

Hetty, skip of the ladies said: “We felt that the field this year was the highest standard we’ve played against at the Europeans, hence we played four extra ends during the round robin. Unfortunately we came out on the wrong side of a few of our close games and the tiebreaker was one of them, with us unable to keep our lead in the final few ends. We played below our ability which has left us feeling frustrated, but we have lots of positives to take away too and thoroughly enjoyed the competition in Glasgow”.

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Hetty Garnier throwing versus The Netherlands – Photo: WCF/Jeffrey Au

In the men’s side of the competition, Alan’s experienced team of Andrew Read, Andrew Woolston, Tom Jaeggi and Ben Fowler drew a tough group in a pool of teams that get stronger with every year. They recorded their first win over Belgium in the first game with an impressive score of 15-6 thanks to registering a steal of four in the 2nd end and a score of four in the 9th end.

Their second game versus Latvia proved to be frustrating after the men’s great start. Despite a close first half, Latvia pulled away and won the game 10-2. The frustration continued with their game vs Hungary where the men were leading 8-6 going into the last end without hammer, but giving away a three in the 10th end spelled another loss for the boys.

Their fourth game was another loss versus Poland 8-3. After this, the men played Slovenia whom they comfortably beat 7-3, bringing their three loss spell to an end and putting them on a win-loss record of 2-3. Their sixth game was against group leaders and eventual B group side winners, The Netherlands. The boys fought hard and came away with a significant 6-4 win over the Dutch. They beat Estonia in their last group game giving them hope of a possible tiebreaker. Sadly other results went the wrong way for team England meaning their 4-3 record was not quite enough for them to progress to the tiebreakers and semi-finals.

Congratulations to The Netherlands and Slovakia who both won promotion to the A Group for 2017 and extra well done to the Dutch boys who won the world qualifier against Austria.

Thank you to the organising committee who put on a superb event and an especially big shout of appreciation to all the friends, family, curlers and supporters who spent many hours sat in the freezing cold, cheering both teams throughout the week.

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The team at the banquet held at Kelvingrove Art gallery and Museum – Photo: Yvonne Gibson

We look forward to the ECA playdowns in February where we will have the first women’s challenge since 2013 and a strong group of contenders on the men’s side.