Team Murdoch continued their resurgence in form by winning the German Masters in Hamburg, while the last two men’s spots were decided for the Scottish Championships, and in Canada there were shocks in the provincial Scotties.
Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith represented Scotland in Hamburg in a strong field that included Team Edin of Sweden and Teams De Cruz and Michel of Switzerland.
There were, however, early exits for Brewster and Smith in the pool stage of the competition.
In Group F, Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson and Hammy McMillan were 9-2 winners over Jiri Snitil’s Czech rink, but then lost 5-4 to Gronbech of Denmark and 6-5 to Baumann of Germany after an extra end.
Smith’s rink (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) also won their first match, 5-3 against Gribi of Switzerland, but were then beaten 5-2 by the Finnish national team Kauste and 6-5 by Michel, which meant elimination from Group B.
No such problems for Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) in Group D, who won their first two games – 6-1 against Mjoen of Norway and 6-4 over Swedish rink Eskilsson.
They were beaten 6-3 by Soo Hyuk Kim’s Korean rink, the current Pacific-Asia champions, in their final pool match, but by then they knew they had made it out of the group – but not yet to the quarter-finals.
With the German Masters having six pools, it necessitated two playoff rounds before the quarter-finals – with Murdoch first facing Michel, and losing 8-6 after an extra end.
But they had a second chance and took it, beating Stjerne of Denmark 5-3 to reach the last eight.
There they saw off Hoiberg of Norway 4-3, which sealed their place in the semi-finals on Sunday morning.
Michel were again their opponents, but this time the Scots came out on top – a two in end four, followed by steals in ends five and six, proving pivotal in their 6-5 win.
The final was another rematch – against Kim, who had beaten European champions Edin 6-1 in the other semi-final.
The Scots scored two in end one and led 3-1 after four ends, but Kim scored two in end five and stole one in end seven to lead 4-3 into the eighth.
Skip Murdoch needed to make a hit to score two to win, and he was spot on, meaning a final score of 5-4 and the team’s second German Masters title, having also triumphed in Hamburg in 2013.
Their form has been excellent since the last few weeks of 2015, and is a real signal of intent ahead of the Scottish Championships next month, as David Murdoch’s reaction to the win demonstrated.
“Obviously we are delighted with another win on the tour with a strong field,” he said.
“Our form recently had been exemplary and again this weekend we showed great determination to continue this trend.
“With the Scottish Championship a few weeks away we feel we have great confidence in our play and we hope we carry this forward and achieve our goals for the rest of the season.”
Speaking of the Scottish Championships, Braehead was the setting as five teams competed for the final two men’s places.
And it was Teams Brydone and Combe who saw off McCall, Shaw and Taylor to qualify for Perth next month.
Brydone (Robin Brydone, Ross McCleary, Calum Greenwood, Craig Waddell, Gavin Barr) won their matches against Combe (7-5), McCall (7-3) and Taylor (5-4) to wrap up their spot.
Also successful were the Combe rink (Moray Combe, Sandy Christie, Neil Sands, Gary Rutherford), who beat Taylor (9-4), Shaw (9-3) and McCall (8-2).
Qualifiers were also taking place in Canada – this time for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts (their national women’s championship).
With only last year’s winner, Team Jones, automatically qualified, each rink must get out of their home province to reach the big event.
And with 10 of the 14 Scotties spots decided, there have already been some big shocks – the biggest coming in Ontario.
Team Homan were on fire in the first half of 2015-16, winning titles and cash wherever they went, so were huge favourites to win their province.
But curling’s innate unpredictability means that on any given day, any team can beat any other. Which is just what happened.
Team Hanna defied the odds to steal two in end seven and three in end eight as they beat Homan 10-8 to represent their province in Grande Prairie, Alberta, next month.
And another member of Canadian women’s curling’s ‘top three’ over the last few seasons, Team Sweeting, were beaten by Team Carey in the Alberta final.
Sweeting controlled the first half of the game but Carey scored threes in ends seven and nine to win it 8-5.
Those defeats for Homan and Sweeting show that when a qualifying event comes down to just one game, anything can happen.
In Scottish women’s curling, Team Muirhead may have ruled the roost for the last few seasons, but the slightest loss of focus, or a couple of shots going against them… who knows?
Across the other Canadian provinces, Team Thompson qualified from British Columbia, Team Einarson beat McDonald to represent Manitoba, Team McCarville beat Fleury to the Northern Ontario spot, Team Brothers took the Nova Scotia title, Team Birt made it from Prince Edward Island, Team Larouche qualified from Quebec and Team Baldwin will represent Yukon.
That just leaves New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan to decide their champions.
Finally, just a wee reminder it’s Burn’s Night tonight…