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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.