A huge battle is shaping up for positions in the men’s curling semi-finals with one day of the round robin to play. Australia, Japan and Korea are the leading teams sitting on five wins and one loss each, followed by China and USA with three wins and three losses a-piece. Canada, Czech Republic and New Zealand are out of contention, even if they win their games in the final round. The women still have two more games to play in their double round robin.
Korea suffered its first loss of the tournament in round six against Japan who beat them decisively, 8-4. Earlier, Korea beat the Czech Republic in round five with a score of 8-4.
In round five Australia beat New Zealand, 8-5. New Zealand put on the pressure in the seventh end, stealing an impressive three to take the lead for the first time in the game, but Australia rose to the challenge, pulling ahead again and stealing one in the tenth end to secure the win. USA took a defensive position against Japan at the start with no scores on the board for the first three ends, but Japan was too strong and won 6-3.
Canada had its first win of the tournament in the fifth round, consolidating its lead over China in the seventh end with a steal of three. China fought back and scored in the final two ends, but it wasn’t enough and Canada won, 7-6. The Canadians are an invitation team made up of four petroleum engineers, three of whom have played together for some 25 years and have strong connections with New Zealand curlers. They went on to lose against Australia in round six with a final score of 9-7. But this wasn’t enough to take the fizz out of their earlier win against China. “Finally our team started curling like we did back home; and if you are going to beat a team then that [China] was the one to beat,” said Canadian skip, Cliff Butchko of the Olympic qualifiers. “It’s extremely special.”
New Zealand changed its order for the men’s sixth round when it played China. Third Scott Becker played last shot and fifth, Kris Miller came in replacing second, Warren Kearney. New Zealand put the first points on the board, but China won the game, 8-4.
In an interesting turn of events in the Czech Republic versus USA game, officials called a hogline violation against Czech Republic in the sixth end after an umpire determined the team’s third, Jiri Candra did not release his stone before the hogline. Head Umpire Pat Edington of Scotland said the hogline umpire looks out straight across the line. “The rule is: the stone has to be clearly seen to have been released before it reaches – that is, any part of it is on – the hogline,” he said. “It was a clear call.”
Pat Edington said a hogline violation often occurred once or twice in a tournament. It results in the offending stone being removed and the remaining stones being returned to their positions prior to the play. Despite the call, the outcome of the sixth end was a good one for Czech Republic, who swept their final stone into the rings to secure a three score, giving them a two-point lead of 5-3. However, USA won the game, 8-6.
A second violation of the day demonstrated good sportsmanship on both sides in the women’s eighth round when Australia called attention to its own violation of ‘burning its rock’ (inadvertent broom-touch on the stone) in its game against Korea. It then became Korea’s choice as to whether Australia’s stone stayed or was removed. Removing it would have given the Koreans an end score of three points, however they elected to let the shot stand and gained a score of only one. Korea won the game, 7-2.
Earlier, in the women’s seventh round Australia played world champions China. China had a strong start, but made a few mistakes in the middle ends while Australia played steadily, stealing 1 on both the fifth and sixth runs. China finally scored on its last stone advantage in spectacular fashion on the seventh end with a four. Australia fought back, but China took the game, 9-4. New Zealand started well against Korea, but this changed in the seventh end when Korea stole a one to even the score to 5-5, and then went on to steal all subsequent ends to win, 8-5. In round eight New Zealand and Japan had a long, hard-fought game, with Japan finally winning, 7-5.
100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games continues tomorrow (27 August) with the men’s final round to determine positions in the semi-finals and the two final games in the women’s double round robin.