The Scottish Curling Championships head into their fifth day with only Team Brewster certain of a playoff place in the men’s section, and only Team Muirhead secure in the women’s.
Brewster won twice more, including against Team Murdoch, to nail down their spot in the final four, while two Wednesday wins for Team Smith means there are five teams in contention for the three spots below Brewster.
Muirhead remain unbeaten, and while Team Gray also look good for a playoff spot, they cannot yet be certain, with five teams below them all still harbouring hopes of making the knock-outs, swinging on results across the final draw.
I’ve seen it before from Team Muirhead, but not quite like this.
They found themselves 6-1 down after four ends to Team G Aitken in the fifth women’s draw, having conceded three in the first end and lost steals in ends three and four.
But they hauled themselves back into the match with two in end five and a steal in end nine – yet still needed to steal two in end 10 to force an extra.
They did that – and more – as Aitken’s last crashed on a guard to give up three, and the win 8-7.
Eve Muirhead said afterwards: “Gina started very well and deserved to get the jump on us. But we have experience as a team and were never out of the game.
“We were unlucky not to steal two in end nine, and played a perfect last end.
“We’re playing well, not firing on all cylinders, but we want to save our best for later in the week.”
There was an equally dramatic game between Teams Fleming and Jackson, as Fleming moved into a 5-1 lead by end five but gave up a steal of three in end seven as Jackson came back to lead 7-6 after nine.
Fleming could only score one in end 10; Jackson hit and rolled out to accidentally blank the extra end, but scored her one in the extra extra end to win 8-7.
Jackson joined Team Gray on W3 L2, after Gray surprisingly lost 10-4 to Team Young, who scored two in end one and threes in ends six and eight.
Team Murray (with Kirsty Barr subbing in for Katie Murray, away for academic commitments, and Rebecca Morrison at skip) stole two in end eight and scored another two in end 10 to beat Team K Aitken 9-6.
Men’s draw seven saw Team Brewster move clear at the top of the standings on six wins, scoring two in end one, stealing two in end two and scoring three in end six for a strangely straightforward 8-2 victory over Team Murdoch.
Murdoch was joined on five wins and two losses by Teams Bryce (who stole their way to a 4-0 lead and added three in end seven and two in end eight to beat Team Brydone 9-3) and Mouat – who scored twos in ends one and two, three in end three, two in end five and one in end six to ease past Combe 10-1.
Also on W5 L2 were Team Hardie, who came up against a resurgent Team MacDonald, the 2015 champions gaining a 5-3 lead, losing it, but forcing in end 10 – Ewan MacDonald making the hit for two with his last for an 8-6 extra end win.
Finally, Team Smith clung onto their playoff hopes, moving to W4 L3 by beating Team Macleod 5-1, crucially stealing three in end five.
Skip Kyle Smith said: “We’ve made fewer mistakes and made more shots [the last two games] after struggling before.
“It’s all about winning our last two games – playing like we know we can play.”
Compared to the drama of the morning, the sixth women’s draw was rather more routine.
Certainly that was the case for Muirhead, who moved to six wins from six by beating K Aitken 11-2, with a steal of one in end two, a two with hammer in end four, a four in end six and a steal of three in end seven to finish the job.
Gray picked up their fourth win by overcoming Jackson 8-3. The match was tight up to 3-3 at end six, after which Gray took steals of one in end seven, one in end eight and three in end nine.
That kept them ahead of the pack on W3 L3, which includes Jackson – and Fleming, who defeated Young 10-4 courtesy of two in end five, three in end seven and four in end nine.
Also on W3 L3 are Murray, who despite being without their usual skip, won their second game of the day against G Aitken, stealing one in end three, scoring two in end six and taking their one with hammer in end 10 to win 6-5.
Brewster remained top of the pile after reeling off their sixth successive win in the eighth men’s draw, beating Brydone 8-3 with two in end two and four in end four.
Murdoch moved to six wins by beating Combe 9-2 thanks to twos in ends one, three and five, and three in end seven.
Mouat joined Murdoch on W6 L2 – but only just: they led Hardie 4-1 after five ends but skip Bruce Mouat had to make a double takeout to prevent a killer three in end 10.
Hardie scored two, forcing an extra end, where Mouat claimed one to win 7-6… a second extra end loss of the day for Hardie.
Hardie now sit W5 L3, as do Bryce and Smith after Smith won their head-to-head clash. A nightmare eighth end for Bryce saw Smith steal three, winning the game 6-3.
Team MacDonald cannot make the playoffs but did pick up their third win, beating Macleod. MacDonald went 4-1 up, lost their lead, but then scored four in end seven to draw handshakes.
Tomorrow: the decisive final draws. At 8am the seventh and last women’s draw features G Aitken v K Aitken, Fleming v Gray, Jackson v Young and Muirhead v Murray.
Four wins should be enough for a tiebreaker spot at least, but three wins could also be enough for G Aitken and Young if other results go their way.
The ninth and final men’s draw is at (high) noon. The matches there are Brewster v Macleod, Bryce v Combe, Brydone v MacDonald, Hardie v Murdoch and Mouat v Smith.
Mouat and Murdoch need wins to avoid being dragged into tiebreaker(s). Should they both win and Bryce beat Combe, they will be the top four. But should one/both of Hardie and Smith win, then things get really interesting…
Tiebreaker(s) – I can’t see there not being any at all – are scheduled for 6.30pm.