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STAFF REPORTERS

The New Zealand men’s team competing at the World Junior Curling Championships in Liverpool, Nova Scotia are well placed after five of its nine round robin games.

The team’s 3-2 win-loss record has it sitting in a logjam of five teams tied for second place on the leaderboard, behind the unbeaten Scots.

The New Zealand team, made up of Matt Neilson, Anton Hood, Ben Smith and Hunter Walker, all of the Maniototo, and Jayden Apuwai-Bishop, of Dunedin, got off to the perfect start at their maiden World Championship by winning their first two games, 5-4 over Italy and 7-5 against Sweden.

New Zealand skip Matt Neilson was not getting too carried away after his side’s stunning fightback to steal the win in an extra end against Sweden.

“It gives us a lot of confidence going into the rest of the tournament,” he said. “We set our goals pretty achievable. That’s to stay in the A-Division after this year.”

They dropped their first game (6-7 to Norway) early on the third day but bounced back late in the day to steal another extra end win, this time over Germany 6-5.

Neilson was pleased with his side’s progress.

“I felt our performance was better than the last few games,” he commented, “and that was hard-fought by Germany. It could have gone either way.”

The New Zealanders were well beaten 6-2 by runaway leaders Scotland in their most recent game earlier
this week, and Neilson was quick to praise his opponents.

“They are definitely a well-played team, the Scots boys,” he said.

“We didn’t feel we were playing too bad, but they were just executing. It’s a loss, but we’re onto the next one already. We’re onwards and upwards from here, we’re going to keep our heads high.”

There are no easy games at this event, with New Zealand still to face Switzerland, USA, China and Canada.

The round robin will finish on Friday, and the top four sides will continue to the medal rounds.

The top six teams, plus next year’s hosts, will qualify directly for the 2020 event.

The remaining three places for 2020 will be determined at a World Junior “B” qualifier, the path New Zealand followed for this event.