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Loss to Australia has Canada’s Homan, Morris in must-win scenario at Beijing 2022

Canada is facing a must-win game versus Italy Monday morning in their final round-robin mixed doubles curling match in order to secure a spot in the semifinals at the Beijing Games, after a stunning extra-end loss to Australia.

The Canadians will be in tough versus the Italians, who sit atop the 10-team field with a perfect 8-0 record. Canada’s loss to Australia Sunday dropped them to 5-3, tied with Great Britain and Norway. If Canada loses, Sweden (5-4) would grab the fourth and final spot in the semifinals because they have the tiebreak advantage.

While Rachel Homan and John Morris started play Sunday with a gritty 7-5 victory over the Czech Republic, they fell behind early against Australia, the last-place team, later in the day, putting their playoff hopes in doubt. Even though they forced an extra end against the Aussies, they couldn’t complete the comeback.

Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt, whom Morris coaches in Canmore, Alta., rode their much-sharper shot-making to a 10-8 triumph in nine ends.

“It was a tough game,” Homan told the CBC’s Colleen Jones afterward. “We came out pretty slow, kind of struggled a little bit, and we guessed as good as we could, and we fought and never gave up. I’m proud of both of us for sticking with the process and trying to battle out that win. At the end of the day it didn’t go our way … just got to take it and learn from it and move on.”

After falling into an early 7-0 hole after four ends, the Canadians crawled their way back into the match to tie the game 8-8 and force the ninth end.

Unlike earlier on Sunday, when Homan and Morris took a dramatic 7-5 victory in an extra end vs. the Czech Republic, there was no such extra end success for the Canadians.

The Australians started the day Sunday thinking they were out of the Olympics following a positive COVID-19 test for Gill.

After being given a last-minute waiver to remain in the tournament by the Medical Expert Panel (MEP) in Beijing, the Australians had to scramble to the National Aquatics Centre for their game versus Switzerland, the silver medalists four years ago in Pyeongchang.

After starting the tournament 0-7, the Australians won that game 9-6, and went into their match against the Canadians riding that high.

Indeed, they shot out to an early 3-0 lead in the first end against Canada, stole two in the second end and stole another in the third. Canada looked poised to get back in the game in the fourth end, but Gill hit a spectacular draw for another one-point steal.

But the Canadians started to turn things around in the fifth end, helped along by a couple of misses by the Australians early and a miss at a double late in the end. Homan, who had been uncharacteristically shaky until that point, kept Canada in a position to score four and storm right back into the match.

Canada had been looking to steal two in the sixth end, but Australia scored one. In the seventh end, Morris hit a freeze and the Canadians scored three. Australia used their power play and had the hammer in the eighth end, but Gill missed her last shot and Canada managed to steal one to tie it up and force the extra and, where the Aussies ultimately scored two for the win.

Homan stated she knows little about the Italian team, except that they are having an excellent Olympics so far. “I know that they’re playing really well and they are crushing teams here like they’ve been here for 20 years,” Homan said. “So we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game.”

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