|High standard at NZ Seniors|
New Zealand's first Senior Curling Championships were held at Naseby's Maniototo Curling International rink at the start of August. As expected there was plenty of friendly banter between the sides, but any notion that this tournament wouldn't be competitive could not be further from the mark.
Two-thirds of the curlers competed in the National Open championship a month earlier, and three had been members of the NZ Winter Olympic curling team just five years before.
Four men's and two women's sides took to the ice for the first round on Friday evening.
The women played a best-of-five series. Central Otago's Wendy Becker jumped out to an early lead and won the first game 9-5. Liz Matthews' Aucklanders replied with 3-point wins in both Saturday matches, and then in the early game on Sunday morning were on the cusp of stealing a last-end win for the title before Becker recovered to tie the series up at 2-2.
Team Becker made no mistake in the decider, holding an early lead throughout to win the match 11-4 and the title.
Most of the Men's round robin games went with the form book. The first round featured a much-anticipated clash between Peter Becker's current NZ Senior Men's team, 6th at this year’s World Seniors Championship, and the Hans Frauenlob side featuring 3 ex-Olympians, most of whom had only recently reached the "senior" age of 50. Steals either side of the 4th-end break for Frauenlob helped him win a low-scoring defensive battle 5-2.
The first round of games also featured a minor upset when Charlie McLeod's composite team, playing together for the first time, recorded a win against John Campbell's experienced Alexandra four. The McLeod team had their skip to thank for a number of great saves to keep his team in the match throughout.
The semi-final between Peter Becker and Charlie McLeod was fairly even early, and Becker took a 4-3 lead at the break. The match was over just an end later though as Team Becker scored a whopping 7 in the fifth to record an 11-4 win. The John Campbell – Hans Frauenlob semi was much tighter, and it was a Frauenlob take-out with his last shot of the game that ran Campbell out of stones to secure a 7-5 victory.
A 5 in the second end of the final effectively won the final for Team Frauenlob, with Peter Becker’s men shaking hands at 9-3 after six ends. Two big steals late in the game secured third place for John Campbell, 12-2 over Charlie McLeod.
The National Selectors have made recommendation to the NZ Curling Association, and the NZCA Executive is expected to ratify the NZ teams for April 2012’s World Senior Curling Championships soon. The venue is yet to be confirmed by the WCF.