Kiwis push Sweden in World Mixed playoffs

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New Zealand v Sweden in the playoff round of 16. Photo © WCF / Alina Androsova

22 Oct 2016 – New Zealand's reward for earning the last qualifying spot in the playoffs at the World Mixed Curling Championship in Kazan, Russia was a knockout game against top qualifiers Sweden.

Brett Sargon, Thivya Jeyaranjan, Kieran Ford and Emily Whelan took their one with hammer and stole the second before Sweden replied with a double in the third end. The Kiwis then took the initiative, gaining their reward when they forced an error from the Swedes to score three rather than taking a safer option for two. NZ then led 5-2 at the fourth end break.

Sweden picked up their game after the break, scoring doubles in the fifth and seventh ends to tie the game up at 6-6 going into the last end with New Zealand holding hammer. Good play by Sweden combined with small errors by the Kiwis in not sweeping their own rocks clear after peels meant that Brett Sargon had a tough shot for the win.

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He was left with an attempt at an angled runback to a Swedish stone on the button, but late curl from his shooter meant that the hit was too square, so the Swedes stole the end for the win.

Sweden went on to beat Japan 7-6 in the quarter-finals, Scotland 8-2 in the semis but were beaten in the gold medal match by Russia, 5-4 in an extra end. Scotland headed Korea 8-4 for the bronze.

"Overall, we’re really pleased with how we’ve gone here,” said skip Brett Sargon after their last game. “Naturally we’re disappointed with the result against Sweden, but our goal was to make the playoffs and we did. I think we showed that we deserved to be there, and we can't complain at a final ranking of 9th."

"Ideally we’d have liked more preparation. The first game that the four of us ever played together as a team was our opening match against Japan, and I think it showed with a few close misses as we adjusted to the swingy ice and to each other’s deliveries."

"But it’s been a great tournament – well run, excellent venue and hospitality, and the team really jelled. We’ve had a great support team too, with Liz, Ian and our guide Evgenia."

Preliminary Rounds

After the opening 9-3 loss to Japan, the Kiwis had solid wins over Norway 8-0 and Romania 9-1.

Playing Italy the match was tied up coming into the last end, which the Italians stole to win 7-4. The next against Belarus was also tied up coming home, but a hit on the wrong side of the target from the last Belarusian stone meant that NZ didn’t need to play their last stone to win 5-4.

NZ failed to fire in the last pool match against Scotland, with the Scots claiming a 7-2 result.

New Zealand’s 3-3 record meant the side finished fourth in the pool. The best three sides in each of the five pools qualified automatically, with the final top-16 spot going to the 4th-placed team with the best average draw shot distance.

That meant a nervous wait through the last two draws and tiebreakers, with two other potential fourth-placed sides having a better DSD.

One was the USA, who obliged NZ by beating Latvia in an extra end to finish third in Pool D, and the other was Finland who headed England in a tiebreaker for third place in Pool B.

At the closing banquet, WCF President Kate Caithness confirmed that the 2017 Mixed World Championship would be held 6-15 October in Champéry, Switzerland.