European Playdowns: Teams Muirhead and Smith heading to Denmark

Team Muirhead went unbeaten as they qualified for the European Curling Championships in Esbjerg next month – and they will be joined in Denmark by Team Smith, who recovered from a poor start to win six straight games and book their own European spot.

The European Playdowns, held at the Dewars Centre in Perth, involved four men’s and three women’s teams, each playing double round robin matches for a place in the best-of-three finals.

Despite the loss of lead Sarah Reid to injury, Team Muirhead won all of their round robin matches to reach the women’s final.

Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan and Vicki Adams were joined by Rachel Hannen for the event, and they very nearly lost their first match playing together.

Going into the last end of their first game versus Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Lorna Vevers, Alice Spence, Abi Brown) 6-5 down and without hammer, they managed to steal two points to win the game 7-6.

They then defeated Team Gray (Lauren Gray, Jen Dodds, Vicky Wright, Mhairi Baird) 6-5, before seeing off Fleming again 8-3 and Gray 11-1.

Gray won their first meeting with Fleming 7-6, but Fleming took the second 10-7, which meant a tiebreaker was needed to decide who would play Muirhead in the final. With a three in end five and twos in ends one, three and eight, it was Gray who won it 10-4.

The women’s final (Muirhead having a one-game start) saw Muirhead lead 5-2 after six ends, only for Gray to hit back with twos in ends seven and nine to level it up at 6-6. Muirhead had hammer in the decisive 10th end, though, and scored the one needed to win the final and qualify for Esbjerg.

The men’s double round robin saw Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) sprint out of the blocks, as they won their first three matches.

By contrast, Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) lost their first two games, leaving them behind Brewster and also Teams MacDonald (Ewan MacDonald, David Edwards, Ruairidh Greenwood, Euan Byers) and Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow).

The turning point for Smith was a Thursday evening game with MacDonald (which you can watch here) – a three in end six and twos in ends one and eight vital in an 8-4 win over the reigning Scottish champions.

Brewster lost both of their Friday games to Smith (8-5) and Murdoch (5-2), but then beat MacDonald 6-5 to claim a place in the final on a W4 L2 round robin record.

With MacDonald having fallen away to W1 L5, that left Murdoch and Smith in a straight shoot-out to make the final. And it was Smith who won that match, their fourth in a row, 8-3.

The first leg of the Brewster-Smith final went to an extra end, Brewster tying it up 6-6 in the 10th. That gave Smith hammer advantage in the extra, and they made good on that, scoring the one required for a 7-6 win.

And Smith wrapped up the final and European qualification with a 4-3 second-leg win, taking hammer into the 10th end and scoring the necessary one.

Teams Muirhead and Smith can now look ahead to representing Scotland at the European Curling Championships in Esbjerg from November 20-28.

See a photo gallery from the qualifiers in Perth here.

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