Teams Mouat and Murdoch survived tiebreakers on a dramatic final day of round robin action at the Scottish Curling Championships.
Both had earlier lost to Teams Smith and Hardie respectively to see five teams finish on six wins and three losses, but they bounced back in the evening’s deciding games.
By contrast, the race for the women’s playoff places was cleaner, with Teams Muirhead, Fleming and Gray the top three, Fleming leapfrogging Gray to make the 1v2 game.
Team Muirhead finished the women’s round robin with seven wins from seven, thanks to another comprehensive victory – 9-1 against Team Murray.
They scored three in end two, stole two in end three, stole another one in end four, and scored three in end six to prompt handshakes.
Muirhead will face Team Fleming in tomorrow’s 1v2 game after they defeated Team Gray 8-7, courtesy of threes in ends six and eight.
Skip Hannah Fleming said afterwards: “We had to be patient; the three [in end six] settled us and we kept it together.
“Sheer determination [got us through]. We would have been absolutely devastated not to qualify for playoffs.”
Both Fleming and Gray finished on W4 L3 records, but Fleming got second spot in the rankings on head-to-head basis; Gray await the loser of the 1v2 game in the semi-final.
Murray finished below those teams on W3 L4, as did Teams Jackson and Young, after Young defeated Jackson 7-3 in the final draw, stealing one in end four, two in end five and two in end seven.
And the two Aitken rinks ended on W2 L5, Team K Aitken beating Team G Aitken 12-4 courtesy of three in end one, twos in ends five and seven, and a steal of three in end nine.
If the last women’s draw was relatively straightforward, the ninth and final men’s draw couldn’t have been more different.
Team Brewster were the only team assured of a playoff place before the draw and it remained that way after the draw too!
Brewster finished the round robin W8 L1 by beating Team Macleod 4-2, but the real drama was happening on the other sheets.
Team Bryce moved to W6 L3 with a 10-5 win over Team Combe, scoring two in end one, three in end three and five in end six.
But by the end of the draw there were four more teams on W6 L3 records – Teams Hardie, Mouat, Murdoch and Smith.
Hardie kept it tight against Murdoch before stealing one in end 10 to win 5-4, while Mouat v Smith went to an extra end, Smith coming back from 6-3 down and stealing one in the extra when Bruce Mouat’s draw was just too heavy.
Those results meant a wait to find out the playoff picture. The teams were called down by the umpires, and it emerged that Bryce had the best last stone draw of the event, so went into the 1v2 game with Brewster, while Hardie v Mouat and Murdoch v Smith were the tiebreakers.
The fifth match of the draw saw Team MacDonald pick up their fourth win, beating Team Brydone 7-3, to end a disappointing title defence on something of a high.
Skip Ewan MacDonald said: “We’re disappointed – we won last year and wanted to defend it. It’s been a difficult year with injuries, not playing a lot.
“We weren’t sharp enough. You need game time, and we weren’t able to prepare as well as we could have.
“We had a good second half [of the week]. A few inches here and there and it might have been different – we’re good enough to be in the [playoff] mix.”
The evening’s tiebreakers saw a ruthless Murdoch performance against Smith, playing a brutally effective game, keeping it simple by taking twos with hammer in ends two and four, forcing Smith to ones and stealing four in end eight to finish it off 9-2.
After, David Murdoch said: “We were frustrated after the loss [to Hardie]. We came out all guns blazing and had one of our best performances of the week.
“Kyle [Smith] has a great team, so to beat them like that gives us confidence for tomorrow.”
The other tiebreaker was considerably closer – Mouat scoring two in end four but being pegged back by a Hardie two in end eight.
When Mouat was forced to one to tie 4-4 after nine ends, it looked to be advantage Hardie, but Grant Hardie’s last draw went too far and gave up a steal of two – 6-4 Mouat.
Bruce Mouat said: “[After losing to Smith] we regrouped over dinner and refocused on this game and playing well.
“We’re making a lot of good shots; we played a good game against Murdoch before, so there’s no reason we can’t win tomorrow.”
Tomorrow we have see the results of today’s dust settling.
At noon, we have the page playoffs: Muirhead v Fleming in the women’s 1v2 game (winner into final); Brewster v Bryce in the men’s 1v2 game (winner into final) and Mouat v Murdoch in the men’s 3v4 (loser out).
Then at 7pm, the semi-finals: the loser of the Muirhead-Fleming game plays Gray for a place in Saturday’s women’s final (loser out); and the loser of the Brewster-Bryce game plays the winner of the Mouat-Murdoch match to get into the men’s final (again, loser out).
And for linescores, team information and more, see the RCCC event page here.