It took all the way to an extra end, but Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud eventually beat France’s Thomas Dufour by 5-4 in Friday’s tie-breaker at the Ford World Men’s Curling Championship in Regina, Canada.
As a result, the Norwegians now face Sweden in Saturday’s three versus four play-off game, with the winner going onto the semi-final and the loser going on to play for bronze medals on Sunday.
This was a tight game all the way. Because France had won the round-robin game between the two, they started with last stone advantage, and used that to blank the first two ends, looking for a break-through. In the third end, they were forced to settle for just one point and they added to that with a single steal in the fourth when Ulsrud’s final draw was heavy.
However Ulsrud made amends in the fifth when a better-judged draw let him score two and level the game.
France returned to their blanking tactic in the sixth and once again, in the seventh, had to settle for just one point and a 3-2 lead.
Norway responded with a single in the eight and then stole one in the ninth when France’s attempted clear-out jammed on a back stone.
In the tenth end, France’s fourth thrower Tony Angiboust wrecked his first attempt on a front guard and eventually had to draw onto the button for the one point that put the game into an extra end. In this end, Ulsrud eventually had an easy hit and stick on the eight foot ring for his 5-4 victory.
Throughout the week, Ulsrud had expressed disappointment at his results. However, after his win he said, “If you asked me two or three days ago if I would be playing on Saturday, I’d have said ‘no way’, but here we are. Now we’re playing the good stuff late in the week, and I don’t mind that”.
Speaking specifically about the tie-breaker game he said, “we just hung in there. That was a real tough match against France. It took ten ends for us to turn the hammer. They were playing really well and kept making big shots, but like last night (against Canada) we showed that all four guys need to be there”.
Looking forward he said, “Sweden will be a tough game and we don’t want to be down against them. If you get two or three down it’s like playing the good Canadian teams, they’re a good hitting team. Hopefully our draw game will win us the match”.
Asked whether he thought he could win the whole thing, he said, “I think we have the same chance to win as the other teams”.
Although clearly disappointed, French skip Thomas Dufour was philosophical about his loss, and already knew what to do next to try to improve in future events. He said, “We didn’t expect to do so well here. This is a new team and it’s very promising for the future”.
“Our main task when we return to France will be to go to see the French Ice Sports Federation and try to find the funding to help our team and our sport in France as much as possible. We need to be given the chance to do even better than this. What we really need is a proper place to train, with good quality curling ice”.
The next action of the championship sees Canada face up to Scotland in the one versus two play-off game on Friday evening, with the winner going directly to Sunday’s gold medal final and the loser being given a second chance to get there via the sole semi-final against the eventual Page 3 -4 winner.
5. France 7-5
6. Germany 6-5
7. Switzerland 6-5
8. Czech Republic 5-6
9. China 4-7
10. USA 3-8
11. Korea 2-9
12. Denmark 0-11.
Tie-breaker: Norway 5, France 4.
TV & Web: http://www.worldcurling.org/ford-world-mens-curling-championship-2011-tv-web-coverage
Live Scores: http://www.curling.ca/championships/curlcast-1
Scores mirrored on: http://results.worldcurling.org/Championship.aspx?id=396
Event websites for news & photos: http://www.curling.ca/championships/worlds/