Team Jackson victorious in Prague

jackson-prague
EJCT Prague Junior Cup winners, Team Jackson (photo: facebook.com/CurlingChampionsTour)

Team Jackson won the women’s title at the EJCT Prague Junior Cup, defeating Team Gauchat of Switzerland in the final.

Three Scottish teams took part in the first Grand Slam of Curling event of the season, the Masters, with Team Murdoch performing best in making it to the quarter-finals.

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat also posted a quarter-final finish, theirs coming at the Geising Mixed Doubles, while the Province Championship and U17 Slam at Lanarkshire took place back in Scotland.

***

Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) travelled to the Czech Republic for the EJCT Prague Junior Cup.

They kicked off their pool stage with a 9-2 win over Team Wuest of Switzerland, scoring two in end four and five, and three in end six.

Team Hoehne of Germany were up next, and the Scots scored two in end two only for the Germans to hit back straight away with three and head into the extra end with hammer. Jackson, however, stole one for the 5-4 victory.

Threes in ends one and two pointed them towards an 8-2 win over Team Cerne of Slovenia, and despite a 6-5 loss to Team Joo (Hungary) they were safely into the semi-finals.

There Jackson met Team Fomm of Germany, and gave up steals in ends four and five to fall 4-1 behind. But two in end six and a steal of three in end seven turned the match on its head, Jackson winning 6-4.

Team Gauchat of Switzerland were their opponents in the final, but it was the Scots who pulled through 7-4 to take the cup!

Skip Sophie Jackson said: “We are really happy with our result this weekend as we had a few tough games and stuck together to grind out the wins.

“It’s great to see our hard work from pre-season paying off with regards to results so far this season.”

***

Three Scottish teams were in Okotoks, Alberta, for the WFG Masters, the opening Grand Slam of Curling tournament of the 2016-17 season.

Teams Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were drawn in the same pool and they opened against each other.

Murdoch began with three in end one, forced Smith to one and then added a huge four in end three for an almost unassailable 7-1 lead – and so it proved, Smith conceding at 9-2.

Smith, in their first Grand Slam at the elite level (they played in tier 2 of the Tour Challenge last season), claimed a win in their next match – two in end four and a steal of one in end seven seeing them past Team Carruthers 5-3 – but two further losses (6-5 to Team McEwen and 7-5 to Team Morris) saw them exit with a W1 L3 record.

Murdoch edged a tight battle with Morris (5-4) for their second win of the competition, but defeats to Carruthers (5-1) and McEwen (6-5) tipped them into a tiebreaker with Team Koe, the reigning world champions.

A good time for your skip to curl at 100 per cent then – and that’s just what David Murdoch did, as his rink scored two in end three, then three in end five, and stole one in end six, as Koe were beaten 7-3.

The quarter-finals pitted them against the on-song Team Laycock, and this time the Scots fell short, Laycock taking two in end four and stealing one in the fifth in winning 5-3.

The men’s final was contested by Teams Edin and Jacobs. Jacobs led 4-2 into end eight, but the Swedes scored two to force an extra – where they stole one to win the match 5-4, taking their first Grand Slam title and – remarkably – the first men’s Grand Slam won by a non-Canadian team!

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray), fresh from qualifying for the European Championships and welcoming back Sloan at third, flew the Scottish flag in the women’s event.

First up they faced Team Kim of Korea – they stole two in end one but then gave up five unanswered points in the following four ends, the Koreans eventually winning 6-5.

They then suffered another 6-5 defeat, this time going toe-to-toe with Team Pätz of Switzerland but giving up a steal in end eight, before a first win came against Team Rocque – three in end one, four in end four and three in end six giving them a 10-2 victory.

That set up a must-win match with the reigning Masters champions, Team Homan. Homan took the victory though, 7-5, and Muirhead dropped out on W1 L3.

Despite four of the quarter-finalists being international teams, it was an all-Canadian – indeed an all-Ontario – final between Teams Flaxey and Homan.

Flaxey, having made the playoffs via a tiebreaker, shocked Homan with a four in end five pivotal in their 6-3 victory. Like Edin, this was Flaxey’s first GSOC title.

As an aside, it is very disappointing to see Sportsnet having chosen to end non-Canadian subscriptions to live Grand Slam matches – it means that fans of the international teams playing the tournaments cannot watch them at home, and it will hardly help to grow the sport worldwide.

I hope that curling fans’ passionate pleas for the service’s return will be rewarded.

***

Back in Europe, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat – who had finished runners-up at the Austrian Mixed Doubles the week before – took part in the CCT Geising Mixed Doubles.

The Scottish pair cruised through the group stage, with wins over Walczak/Knebloch of Poland (10-5), Belarussians Petrova/Petrov (10-3), Poles Szeliga-Frynia/Frynia (8-4) and Kobler/Hess of Switzerland (8-2).

The quarter-finals saw them face Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky of Russia, who have real pedigree this season – having come third at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles and then helped Russia to gold at the World Mixed Championship.

The Russians stole in ends two, three and four to lead 3-0, before Aitken/Mouat got on the board with two in end five. The Russian pair scored four in end six though, and stole another one in the seventh end for an 8-2 win.

And it was Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky who won the title, beating Hajkova/Paul of the Czech Republic 8-5 in the final.

***

Lanarkshire Ice Rink hosted the second Asham Under 17 Slam of the season, with 24 teams involved.

The rinks being divided into six sections, the pool stage delivered two high road and two low road quarter-finals, all the knockout matches played on the Sunday.

In the high road quarters, Team Craik scored two in end one and three in end four in beating Team Gallacher 6-4, while Team Haswell cruised past Team Hair 6-1.

Haswell won again in the semis, scoring two in end four and stealing one in the sixth end for a 4-3 victory over Team Davie, while Team Kinnear overpowered Craik 7-0.

The high road final saw Haswell take a 3-0 lead after two ends, but Kinnear roared back with three in the third end, then steals of one, two and one in the next three ends.

That secured Kinnear (Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean and Matthew McKenzie) a 7-3 victory and their second U17 Slam title of the season.

Third spot went to Craik, courtesy of a 3-1 win over Davie, while Henderson defeated Lyon 7-6 after an extra end in the low road final.

Across in Greenacres, 28 teams took part in the Scottish Province Championship.

A pool stage determined which rinks would make the quarter-finals. There, North Eastern defeated Border 5-4, Central beat Cupar 7-4, Renfrewshire 12th edged Galloway 5-4 and Ayrshire 1 saw off Moray 7-4.

Come the semi-finals, Renfrewshire 12th overcame Ayrshire 1 5-3 thanks to two in end five and a steal of one in eight, and Central won a ding-dong battle with North Eastern 8-7 – after the rinks had traded fours in ends two and three, Central scored two in end four and stole singles in ends five and six, then just about held on for the victory.

Renfrewshire 12th (Eric Richardson, Doug Kerr, Fraser Davidson, Margaret Richardson) came through as champions, defeating Central 7-6 in the high road final, scoring two in end three, three in end five and their one with hammer in end eight.

Stirlingshire won the low road final, 9-2 against North & South Esk.

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