NZ wins B title to qualify for junior world champs

New Zealand skip Matthew Neilson competes during the win over Italy in the final in Lohja,...
New Zealand skip Matthew Neilson competes during the win over Italy in the final in Lohja, Finland, yesterday. Photo: Supplied
A world title is on its way to the South and an even bigger one is now in sight.

New Zealand has won the men’s world junior B curling championships in Lohja, Finland.

The team — consisting solely of Otago players — beat Italy 8-4  yesterday to claim the title.

It secures the side a spot in the full junior world championships for the first time.

They will be held in Liverpool  next month.

"The team is super excited," skip Matthew Neilson said.

"We’ve put a lot of work in throughout the year. It’s an unreal feeling to have progressed over the last four years and to take the gold. I’m very, very happy.

"Going to the worlds is huge for New Zealand as well, being such a small country in curling.

"This is the first New Zealand team to go the [junior] worlds and we’re ecstatic about it.

"It pays off — all that training we’ve put in over the last year."

The team — made up of Neilson Anton Hood, Ben Smith, Hunter Walker and Jayden Apuwai-Bishop — had its key moment on the fifth end.

It led the Italians 3-2 at that point before a dominant end helped it jump out to a 7-2 lead.

Italy fought back to gain two points in the following end, but it was a blow from which it could recover.

Earlier it took a big finish to get past China in the semifinal.

After a scoreless first two ends, China jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the third end.

New Zealand fought back to 3-2 on the next end, but trailed 5-3 heading into the final end. There it was able to tie things up, before snatching victory on an extra end.

The result improves on last year’s fifth, which was the only other time the New Zealand men have made the top eight at the event.

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