Team Muirhead won the Scottish Championships women’s title with a strong finish in the final, before Team Brewster won the men’s competition – they will represent Scotland at the World Men’s and Women’s Championships.
Muirhead recovered from losing a three in end four to beat Team Gray 8-4, while Brewster put in a consistent performance centred around a three in end five to defeat Team Murdoch 5-4.
For Muirhead, that means playing at the World Women’s Championship in Swift Current, Canada, from March 19-27; for Brewster, the World Men’s Championships in Basel, Switzerland, April 2-10.
Team Muirhead were big favourites for the women’s title, and started confidently, with a two in end one.
However, mistakes then crept into their game, and after a couple of forces, Team Gray scored three in end four to lead 4-3.
Muirhead were forced again in end five, but after the fifth end break they hit back with a vengeance – stealing two in end six.
A steal of two in end eight effectively killed the game off, with Gray run out of stones in end 10 for an 8-4 final score.
For skip Eve Muirhead, this meant a sixth Scottish title. She said: “It was a game of two halves for sure. We started strongly and Lauren came back at us.
“But the second part of the game is the most important part and that’s exactly when we stepped it up, got the little inches sorted out and put the pressure on them to get the couple of mistakes that we needed.
“To go unbeaten in a championships is tough, and we managed that. But it’s the final game that counts, so we’re delighted to win and can’t wait for Worlds.”
Team Muirhead coach David Hay said: “This was absolutely vital for us, to get to Worlds and get the Olympic qualifying points.
“So we structured our season to give us a three-week break before this, and come out fit and firing.
“At halfway we moved one of our lead stones, because we felt one of Eve’s wasn’t drawing enough and one of Sarah’s was a lot more, and swapped them round.
“We wanted better set-ups – the lead stones dictate the whole end; Sarah had a great second half and got us going. Then Eve’s two draws for the steal of two in end eight was the turning point.
“We go to Worlds with high expectations as always; we want to win the gold medal and – in the back of your mind – get Olympic points as well.”
For Lauren Gray, disappointment, but encouragement from the performance of her inexperienced team.
“We had a strong start in the game, something to build on for sure.
“The gap [to Muirhead] hasn’t closed fully yet, but we’re taking the steps to do that.”
There was victory for Team Brewster – and another Muirhead, Eve’s brother Glen – in the men’s final several hours later.
The Brewster rink had dominated the round robin, losing only once, but their opponents Team Murdoch had played with renewed purpose in their tiebreaker, 3v4 game and semi-final to make it to Saturday’s decider.
Brewster blanked the first two ends before being forced to one in end three.
But Murdoch were themselves forced in end four, and Brewster struck the pivotal blow in end five, scoring three to lead 4-1.
From there, the teams traded steals – Brewster keeping the game simple given their advantage – and Brewster was left with an open hit to win 5-4, which he duly made.
Skip Tom Brewster said: “Finals always have a nervous start. When the three came along that was great and we were really solid after that.
“[Coach Mike Harris] has brought vast knowledge, he’s tactically very good, has experience of major championships. He’s been where we’re going, knows how to make finals, and all the ins and outs of curling.
“For Worlds we don’t need to do anything different. We just need to prepare as hard or harder than we prepared for this week.”
Mike Harris said: “They’ve been really good all week, very consistent, and they maintained that high level of play.
“Getting to Worlds is such a huge hurdle, when you get there strangely the pressure is off. But their expectations are high.
“The way they’re playing now, they’ll be just fine against the best teams in the world.”
The Scottish Championships have been a fantastic event to cover: watching high quality games, speaking to athletes and fans, and enjoying the atmosphere – the Royal Caledonian Curling Club and Perth Curling have really stepped things up from last year, and for finals day to sell out (regardless of the charging for tickets) was great news.
Thank you to the organisers, coaches and athletes who gave me time and assistance with my writing, and spending some time on the ice… a feature on that will follow next week.
Thank you to CurlingGeek, the platform which allowed me to showcase Scottish curling and attracted more than 200 fans to the men’s final, and to Tom Brydone for his superb photos and commitment to the sport.
And thank you to the readers of this blog, the retweeters and shot-by-shot followers. I’ve had a number of people in Perth thank me for my coverage – I do it because I adore the sport and I feel it, and those who play it, deserve far more exposure than they get – but it’s your enthusiasm and interaction as fans who fuel the momentum we’re building.