The round robin stage of the Scottish Curling Championships is complete, and the men’s section saw less playoff pandemonium than the year before, where five teams finished on W6 L3 records.
This year it only required one tiebreaker between Teams Hardie and Mouat to give us a final four of Teams Brewster, Mouat, Murdoch and Smith.
The 10 teams involved in the championship all played their part, with Team Telfer – who lost all nine of their games – coming within a couple of shots of beating Team Smith, edged out 7-6.
Kyle Smith and his rink were also glad to escape unscathed from a tough encounter with Team Whyte, who outplayed their opponents for much of the match but lost 7-3.
It was one of a number of impressive performances from the young team, who shrugged off the loss of regular skip Ross Whyte (he’s at the World Junior Championships as Cameron Bryce’s fifth man) to claim five wins.
Their six-man rotation, skipped by Callum Kinnear when he wasn’t working, upset Teams Murdoch (7-5) and Mouat (8-1), took Team Brewster to an extra end (losing 8-7), and were left to rue a few bad shots in defeat to Team Smith.
Kyle Smith said: “They [Whyte] seemed to have a really good week.
“They’re good curlers, and upset a few folk, so we were quite relieved to get over the finish line against them.”
The Smith rink posted seven victories to two defeats, putting them joint top of the round robin standings and into the 1v2 page playoff against David Murdoch’s Olympians.
“That’s 100 per cent where we wanted to be at the start of the week,” said Smith. “So we’re very pleased.
“We’ve been pretty good, we’ve had some tough games and had to dig deep to steal sometimes or create our twos, but we’re all working together so we need to keep that going.
“Hopefully we’re due a win over him [Murdoch], so we’ll see how we get on.”
Team Murdoch lost two of their first four games – to Hardie and Whyte – but since then they’ve won five in a row, meaning they carry the best form into the playoffs.
Skip Murdoch said: “Our number one priority is to get into the playoffs, and it’s a great bonus that we’re in the 1v2 – that’s where we’ve been aiming the whole week.
“We did have a slow start, but we’ve played some great curling this week and bossed some teams around, and beat a lot of teams that have been playing well.”
In fact they have defeated three of the top five in the section, beating Teams Smith (7-5), Mouat (9-2) and Brewster (8-6).
Murdoch added: “We’re in a good place. It’s going to be a tough weekend – everyone’s in it to win it, and so are we, so we hope to bring our best game to the weekend.
“We’ve been on a bit of a win streak, so you feel good and have your chest puffed out from that.
“When you have a good feeling you’re relaxed, and you just need to bring the intensity.”
Rivalling Murdoch for form are Team Mouat who, after their chastening defeats to Murdoch and Whyte on Tuesday, have won four in a row, including the tiebreaker with Team Hardie.
Grant Hardie’s rink enjoyed another good week, starting with four straight wins, but ultimately it ended in frustration as defeats to Smith, Mouat and Brewster pushed them into a decider with Mouat, the latter scoring two in end eight in winning 5-4.
Skip Bruce Mouat paid tribute to his opponents, saying: “They’re [Hardie] really strong, we’ve played them quite a few times this season and it’s probably been 50-50 games-wise, so it was good to win tonight.”
They won gold at the Winter University Games earlier this month, bringing confidence but also, undoubtedly, some fatigue.
Mouat added: “It’s always going to be quite tiring after a week’s rest and then playing another long week, but I think we’ve really managed to rest well over the week – and that’s what we go to the gym for!”
But it’s target achieved for them in Perth, and they’re a dangerous side in the last four.
“Initially [making playoffs] is what we set out to do, and then obviously we want to win it now, so it’s three must-wins,” said Mouat.
“A winning run is always important. We had a rough Tuesday, losing two on the trot, and bad losses, but now it’s four on the trot that we’ve won.
“Going into the games with a bit of momentum is always a good thing, so if we show up and play well we’ll definitely cause some problems for the other teams.”
But standing in their way are reigning champions Team Brewster, who finished alongside Teams Murdoch and Smith on W7 L2, but having lost to both they missed out on playing in the 1v2 game.
Not that skip Tom Brewster has any complaints about his rink’s round robin performance.
“I think we’re playing just as well as we were last year; I don’t see much difference.
“Even the game we lost yesterday to Dave [Murdoch], we probably outplayed them apart from one bad end which cost us the game.”
The concession of fours in end six against Smith and end two versus Murdoch were decisive, fighting back from 5-1 down to 6-6 in the latter match, before being beaten 8-6.
“We’ve lost two games this week where, truthfully, one bad end has cost us the game, so we just need to cut out a couple of those simple mistakes in the ends we’ve given up,” Brewster added.
“We’ve not played badly in either lost game, just our opponents have been exceptional. So if we cut that out we’ll be in a good place.”
As for the 3v4 match-up, it pits them against a team they’ve already beaten in Team Mouat, albeit after an extra end.
Brewster said: “It’s one extra game, that’s it; you’ve just got to be here at the end of the week.
“I’m confident, we’ve had a good end to the week and we’re improving as the week’s gone on, so that’s what matters.”