GAME 4: Ireland 4 – 7 Japan
Three days is a long time in curling!! The Senior Men joined battle with Japan on Tuesday night in a significant game with qualification in mind. Right from the outset, the guys were a bit cagey and not quite hitting their straps and a tight game resulted which was not really what the doctor ordered. The scores remained close but could have been so much different had a hit by Skip Bill in the 2nd end not chipped a Japanese stone into shot position where a hit and stick would have left Ireland lying 4 or 5 putting pressure on Fujisawa-san.
(Yep his younger daughter is Satsuki Fujisawa who skipped the Japanese women to Bronze in the 2018 Olympics).Ultimately Ireland needed a steal in the last to keep the game alive but Bill’s last draw just came up short and gave the opposition a hit to clear the irish counter to leave him with a single shot to win. Definitely a game to forget for the Irish.
GAME 5 ENGLAND 1 – 11 IRELAND
The Senior boys were back on the tricky and slow sheet G again the next day, taking on England. This was a much more promising effort with Ireland moving into a 5 shot lead in the first end and controlling the game all the way to the 7th when England conceded. The real drama at this point however was the Last Stone Draw and associated Draw Shot Challenge as with Japan having beaten Ireland and Poland beating Japan, if Ireland managed to beat Poland then Draw Shot could determine qualification. A nervy LSD by Bill and David resulted in our overall DSC being top of their group, just 2cm ahead of Poland so moving into the final RR game against Poland, it was to be a straight shootout for qualification.
GAME 6 IRELAND 4 – 7 POLAND
In a nutshell this was comfortably the most disappointing defeat in the recent team’s history – probably out ranking the disappointment of not beating Russia last year in Ostersund at the same stage. What made it worse was that the team played exceptionally well for 6 ends with total control and pressurised their Polish opponents in every end, leading 4-2 after the 6th. Then disaster struck in the 7th end. A series of missed shots or poor results from shots along with one poor tactical call resulted in Poland lying 4 when Bill came to play his first skip stone. A heavy multiple take out was called and executed well but only resulted in one Polish counter exiting the house and the others being spread around – lying three. The Polish skip played a draw to the back 4 to lie 4 and Bill was left to try and cover that stone and hope that it wouldn’t be able to be struck out. His draw was fractionally heavy and missed the break point which resulted in it taking a different path to similar shots which had been played well all game. The stone agonisingly slipped past the back 4 stone and gave the Polish skip an open draw for a 5, which he made. Ireland were now 7-4 down in the last and tried hard to manufacture a three but some strong hitting (and a couple of fortunate ones at that) by the Poles ran the boys out of stones. The dream was over for yet another year but this time it seemed so much more deflating coughing up a big end when they had been in control.
Poland have made great strides in the past couple of years and it was good to have a chat with them afterwards as their association with our great friend Tony Tierney who coached Agnieska (the Polish coach) and also with Gordon McIntyre who had coached some of the Polish Senior team as well as Ireland seniors over the years.
Reflecting on the week, Skip Bill said, ” As ever it has been a privilege to represent Ireland at a World competition and I am proud to be part of this band of brothers and we should be similarly proud of our efforts this week. Ultimately, I think we lacked some of the consistency we have had in previous campaigns and made a few too many errors at crucial times – something you can’t afford to do at this level if you want to progress, particularly as the standard at seniors is still increasing at the top end. Despite all of that, we’ve had a blast – made more new curling friends – had a barrel load of laughs at various times and seen some amazing scenery in and around Stavanger. We are now officially broke however!!. Onwards and upwards.”