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Canada needs to keep focus in win over France at men's curling championship

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The game was pretty much over after just two ends, but that's when the real work began for Kevin Martin's team.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The game was pretty much over after just two ends, but that's when the real work began for Kevin Martin's team.

Canada scored two points in the first end, then stole three in the second during a 8-2 whipping of France in six ends at the men's world curling championships on Monday afternoon.

Martin's Alberta rink didn't break much of a sweat in improving its record to 4-0. With the win not in doubt, his team of third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert went to work keeping their heads in the match and not letting their minds wander.

"That's one thing we've really worked on," Morris said between bites of a banana after the game. "A couple of games earlier in the year we lost our focus after we got up four or five points and let the teams back in it.

"We're working at really trying to keep our focus and keep that lead going into later ends."

Martin said the ice at the Ralph Engelstad Arena has a lot of curl. That means even if a skip has a big lead, if he snoozes, he can still lose.

"It's easy to steal points out there with that much curl," said Martin, who is playing in his third world championship but has never won an international title. "You do have to keep your wits about you and make sure you finish it off."

Kennedy said the team sometimes treats each end of a match like a separate game.

"There's no worse feeling than letting a big lead go because of your focus," said the meat shop owner from St. Albert, Alta. "We're really worked on just focusing on one end at a time, whether you are up one or down three.

"We're a lot better at it than we used to be."

It was a touch match for French skip Thomas Dufour, a ski instructor from Charmonix, France. Dufour showed promise at last year's world championship in Edmonton, finishing 6-6 and qualifying for a tiebreaker.

"You have to play close to 90 per cent, or 85 per cent, to be close to them," said Dufour, who dropped to 2-3. "Otherwise it's too easy for them.

"We wanted to make a little attack on the first end. The second end was very close and they made some brilliant shots. After that it was very difficult."

A crowd of 1,687 watched the afternoon draw in the 11,600-seat arena. Canadian fans waved flags and cheered each of Martin's shots.

While Martin is pleased to be undefeated he said his team can play better.

"We're certainly missing some shots out there," he said. "It's not like we're playing really good. But we're playing solid, I think."

Australia did Canada a favour, handing Germany its first loss of the championship. The Aussies scored deuces in the fifth and seventh ends for a 5-3 victory.

"It was a good game," said Australian skip Hugh Millikin, who was born in North Vancouver, B.C. "We knew we had to play well against Germany. They are always tough. The boys stepped it up."

German skip Andy Kapp took the blame for the loss.

"The team really played well," he said. "My shots didn't come. We had a couple of chances, we just didn't use them. That was the game."

In another close game, Switzerland scored one in the 10th to earn its first win of the week with a 5-4 victory over Sweden. Denmark also defeated China 8-5 in nine ends.

After seven draws Canada leads the standings at 4-0 followed by Germany at 4-1. The U.S. is alone at 3-1. Australia, the Czech Republic, Norway and Scotland are 2-2. China and France are 2-3. Denmark and Sweden are 1-3 while Switzerland is 1-4.

During the morning draw the U.S. blew an 8-3 lead and needed a point in an extra end to edge China 9-8. The win improved the U.S. record to 3-1.

"Their skip really came on strong late," said Kevin Kakela, the U.S. alternate, who came into the game after the seventh end. "He made some really touch shots where you had to be precise."

 
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