|Maniototo Curling International, Naseby||18 - 23 January 2019|
|Playoff 1||Playoff 2||Women||Playoff 1||Playoff 2||Men|
|Q: Qualified for playoffs|
23 Jan 2019 – China and Finland claimed the final two places at the LGT Women's World Curling Championship 2019 when they won their playoff games at the World Qualification Event in Naseby today.
At the same time, Korea and the Netherlands earned their entry for the Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men's Championship 2019.
Eight teams of each gender had started the 6-day tournament, and when the round robin ended yesterday the top three from each had qualified for today's two playoff sessions.
Top qualifiers Finland met China in the first Women's playoff.
It was tight throughout, with never more than a point between the sides. China claimed a 4-3 win when their skip Jei Mei drew her final stone in to beat two Finnish counters.
She was delighted after the game. "We are very happy now," she said. "We played well throughout this week, and now we have won. We have qualified for the Worlds, so this is going to be a new period for us. First of all, we would like to relax for a little bit and then practise. We just want to enjoy every day in curling and fight for awards."
The Men's first playoff game was between Korea and England, the top two qualifiers. Korea led throughout, scoring 3 in the first end and doing the same in the sixth. The English shook hands after eight ends with the score at 7-3.
"I'm so happy that we're now going to the World Curling Championship, and going to Canada," said Korea's skip SooHyuk Kim. "Our performance in this event was not bad, but the team will now re-group and keep trying, to get ready for the Worlds."
England, losers of the first playoff game, had a second life and met the Netherlands in the afternoon's second, sudden-death playoff round. A score of 3 points in the fourth end allowed the Netherlands to manage the rest of the game, and they beat a brave English side 8-5.
Jaap Van Dorp, the Netherlands skip commented, "We felt like we were in control in that game, but we still had to be on our toes. We've been growing in the tournament. It's amazing to get to the worlds, we're going to go to the worlds to show that we can compete there too. It'll be good to show how good we're becoming. We're absolutely looking forward to it."
Finland played Hungary for the final place at the Women's World Championship. Oona Kauste's Finns were too accurate and applied too much pressure, stealing five ends on their way to an 8-1 win.
"It was a really good game against China this morning," said Kauste. "We just had a little bit of bad luck, but they played well and deserved to win. After that game, I knew we could make it with our second chance. That was a good game for us, we played really well. Now it feels amazing, I don't have words. This was a big dream to qualify."
The LGT World Women's Curling Championship 2019 will take place in Silkeborg, Denmark from 16 to 24 March. The Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men's Curling Championship 2019 will be held in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada from 30 March to 7 April.
Neither event will have a New Zealand side competing. The NZ Men finished fourth in the round robin at this event, so just missed the playoffs. The Kiwi Women finished eighth.
22 Jan 2019 – Korea, England and the Netherlands will contest the Men's playoffs at the World Curling Qualification Event in Naseby tomorrow. The New Zealand hosts were eliminated by millimetres after a countback.
The winners of the two playoff games will complete the field for the 2019 Men's World Curling Championship in Canada.
At the same time, Finland, China and Hungary will play off for the remaining two places in the lineup at the Women's World Championship in Denmark.
The Women's playoff contenders were known after their second-to-last round robin session, but it took both final sessions for the Men before the playoff lineup was known. England and Korea went into the morning session unbeaten, but they were beaten there by New Zealand and the Netherlands respectively, the other top-three contenders.
The lead changed hands six times in the clash between the English and the Kiwis before NZ stole the last two ends for a 7-5 win.
"I'm glad that we got the 'W'," said New Zealand skip Scott Becker, "but it was a very, very rough ‘W'. Sometimes you've got those games that come down to the last rock and you've got to guts it out. A win is a win at the end of the day."
The Netherlands led throughout their morning match against Korea, winning 9-6. Poland beat Australia 10-5, and Brazil's Men recorded their first international win, 11-5 over Denmark.
The main interest in the Women's afternoon session was the clash between Finland and Hungary. Both teams had already qualified, but the winner would have two lives in the playoffs. The Finns ran Hungary out of stones in the last end to win 6-4.
China beat Brazil 9-1, and Estonia finished on a high when they beat Hong Kong 10-4.
The New Zealand Women were behind early against Poland, but a valiant fightback saw them come up just short of registering their first win, as Marta Pluta's Poland scored two with the last shot of the game to win 10-9.
New Zealand's Bridget Becker was philosophical about their week. "We've lost the last 4 or 5 games on those last rocks," she said, "so it gets a little bit disappointing. But the girls played so well, considering as a team we haven't had any games together [before this]. It's been amazing, how well we've done. Just a shame we couldn't get on that ‘winning' side instead of the losing."
In the Men's session, the New Zealand vs Netherlands game was effectively a sudden death encounter. Unfortunately for the large local audience in the viewing lounge, the New Zealand team failed to fire against a very accurate Netherlands side who took a 9-2 win to claim the playoff spot.
Korea beat England 8-6 in the other top of the table clash, but these two teams still topped the standings. Australia had a consolation win over Brazil 12-2, and Poland beat Denmark 13-4.
Korea topped the round robin on 6 wins, followed by England, Netherlands and New Zealand on 5 wins. The three teams tied for second had a win and a loss against the other two, so the teams' Draw Shot Challenge (averaged pre-game draw shot distances) were used to rank the sides.
England were best of the three teams with a DSC of 31.18 cm, Netherlands DSC was 34.12 cm, and New Zealand had a DSC of 34.74 cm.
"It was a good week, but disappointing to finish that way," said Scott Becker. "Don't get me wrong, the Netherlands played a very good game. They hardly missed a shot, they forced us to try and make hard shots – and we didn't! To go out on the Draw Shot Challenge, that's hard, especially when it's so close. But that's the way it is. Right now though, I definitely need to have a drink and pat my team on the back, because they played really well all week!"
The first playoff games will start at 9:00 am Wednesday. The Women's game will see Finland take on China, and the Korean Men will play England. The winners will gain entry to their respective World Championships in March.
The losers have a second life and take on the third-ranked side in the second playoff games at 2:00 pm – the Hungarian Women and the Dutch Men. The winners of the second playoff will also earn entry to their World Championship.
21 Jan 2019 – Four Men's teams – England, Korea, New Zealand and the Netherlands – are vying for three playoff spots at the World Curling Qualifying Event in Naseby.
The Women's playoff teams are confirmed with a round still to play. Finland, China and Hungary will fight it out for the two remaining places at the World Women's Championship.
Finland's Women became the first team to qualify for the playoffs. They met China, the other previously unbeaten team, during the morning session on the third day of play and won 8-6, helped along by a score of 4 points in the sixth end.
Finland's skip Oona Kauste commented, "The European Championships in Estonia was a big disappointment [for us], and we took time to decide what to do next."
"But we decided to work hard for a month and come here. There is still work to do finally qualify for the Worlds, but we are hopeful."
Estonia returned to form after a couple of disappointing results with a 15-5 victory over Poland, sealed with a 6-point score in the eighth end.
"As a new team, we haven't had that much practice together," explained Estonian skip Marie Turmann. "Right now we really didn't hope to get to the qualifier at all, I think one step at a time is the right thing to do."
The other winners from Women's morning session were Hungary, who scored 2 points in the last end to beat Brazil 8-6, and Hong Kong, who stole the final end to edge past New Zealand 8-7.
The Men played their fifth session in the afternoon, where Korea and England kept their unbeaten run going in style.
Korea beat Australia 9-0, and England accounted for Brazil 12-2.
England's skip Andrew Reed commented after the game, "It's a little bit surreal really. To consider that we went to the Europeans in Estonia in November, kind of went there with the mindset of not to get relegated to C Division. But we just keep sticking in and trying our best, and here we are sitting 5 and 0 so we're very happy."
Poland stole an extra end to pip the Netherlands 6-5, and New Zealand had an 8-2 win over Denmark.
"The guys threw really well," said NZ skip Scott Becker. "It's probably one of the best games we've played to date so hopefully we can continue that."
Speaking of his hometown event, he added "To have 8 Men's teams and 8 Women's teams [here in Naseby] is absolutely superb. The coverage that we've had for the sport is just fantastic. I think if you win out, and you are the top two teams from this then you've had to scramble and compete at the top level, and you've earned your spot at the Worlds."
China and Hungary sealed their playoff spots in the Women's evening session. China secured an 8-3 win over Poland with a score of four points in the eighth end.
Their skip Jie Mei said after the match, "We have confidence now that we've reached the playoffs. We don't want to be happy too early because this is not the end of the tournament, we just want to play our games and win… at the right time."
Hungary stole the last three ends of their clash with Poland to win 12-3 and to also book their playoff spot.
"It is still our dream to qualify for the Worlds," said skip Dorottya Palancsa. "After the first two games we didn't play our best, so they became exciting, close games. Now we still have to develop ourselves for the playoffs and for sure we have more to come."
The other late games were won by Finland, 8-5 over Estonia, and by Brazil, who stole the last end against New Zealand to win 8-6.
With two rounds to play in the Men's competition tomorrow, England and Korea lead with 5 wins apiece, New Zealand are on 4 wins, and the Netherlands 3 wins. Out of contention are Poland on 2 wins and Denmark with 1 win. Australia and Brazil remain winless.
There is just one round to play in the Women's competition. Finland, with 6 wins, along with China and Hungary (5 wins each) have already secured the three playoff spots. They are followed by Brazil on 3 wins, Estonia and Hong Kong on 2, Poland with one and New Zealand still seeking their first.
The round-robin competition concludes on Tuesday. The top three Men's and Women's sides will play off for the two World Championship places on Wednesday.