By Mitch Phillips
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – Skip Benoit Schwarz produced one of the shots of the Games to earn a rare five-pointer in the ninth end to give Switzerland a 9-5 victory over Britain in their men’s curling playoff and earn an Olympic semi-final against Sweden later on Thursday.
In the only contest in the arena, Britain started tightly and, hoping to match their women’s team’s progress to the semis, were 4-1 up after the first four ends but a couple of mistakes allowed the Swiss to level the score after six.
The Swiss were the more accurate team from then on and though the British had moved 5-4 ahead going into the ninth and still very much in contention, Schwarz applied the coup de grace, threading a superb final shot to leave five scoring stones and bring gasps from the crowd.
“I guess that the ninth end being one down is always a tricky situation because the other team’s trying to force you into maximum,” said Peter De Cruz, who said a five pointer at this level was “very rare”.
“So you take a bit of risk, and we said either zero or risk it for really a big end. So yeah, they just missed three or four shots in a row to get the rocks in the right places.
“Benoit is cool in the very tough moments, the very key moments, and he’s always calm, he always tries to stay positive in every situation.
“We really struggled at the beginning, they read the ice really well, and think that we were just patient enough and we knew that we had a chance at some point.”
British coach Viktor Kjell was left shell-shocked.
“I just don’t know what happened in that ninth end, I thought we were the better team the whole game but they stepped it up,” he said.
“We missed four or five shots in a row and you cannot afford to do that at this level.
“I thought we’d almost got away with it and then he plays a pistol shot and walks away with a five.”
Britain, runners-up to Canada in Sochi four years ago, were forced into the playoff after being thrashed 10-4 in eight ends by the United States on Wednesday.
The Swiss, despite losing to Britain in the preliminaries, had looked well placed to advance but suffered a shock defeat to South Korea and then also lost to the U.S. in their last game to also miss their chance of direct progress.
Switzerland took gold in 1998 and have won two bronze medals since then, while their mixed team took a silver medal in the event’s Olympic debut last week.
Canada, seeking a fourth successive gold, meet the United States in the other semi-final later on Thursday.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, additional reporting by Elaine Lies.; Editing by John O’Brien/Greg Stutchbury)