Baden Masters: Solid Scottish start to season

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Team De Cruz’s winning draw (via youtube.com/user/curlingchampionstour)

Team De Cruz scored a home victory at the Baden Masters, after the three Scottish teams in Switzerland succumbed at the quarter-final stage.

Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith all qualified from the round robin with W3 L1 records in their opening tournament of the 2016-17 season, but could progress no further than the last eight.

That left it to Peter De Cruz and Thomas Ulsrud’s rinks to contest the final, with the Swiss team taking the victory 6-5 after an extra end.

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Curling is back, and that meant the welcome return of some of the sport’s greatest sights.

There was a strong field in Baden for the Curling Champions Tour event, including recent World and European medallists Teams De Cruz, Edin, Stjerne and #funkypants Ulsrud.

Scotland was well represented too, with Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith all involved.

Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) started their campaign with two victories – both after an extra end.

They led Team Hess of Switzerland 4-1 after four ends, but were taken to an extra end at 6-6, using hammer to score two and win 8-6; they were then pegged back to 4-4 by Team Retornaz of Italy scoring two in end eight, but again they got the job done by scoring one in the extra.

Their third match was much more straightforward, scoring two in end one and threes in ends three and four to beat Swiss Team Lottenbach 8-1, which set up a showdown with fellow unbeaten side Ulsrud – this time the Scots were on the wrong side of an extra end game, the Norwegians using hammer to score one and win 6-5.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) won their first match 9-4 against Swiss Team Pfister (taking a four in end five), but crashed to a 7-2 loss against another Swiss rink, Attinger, giving up two in end two, three in end four and two in end five.

But the Scots recovered from that by posting two victories – 7-4 against Team Van Dorp of the Netherlands (scoring twos in ends one and five) and 8-0 over Norwegians Team Walstad (three in end one, five in end two) – which meant that, like Brewster, they were into the quarter-finals with three wins and one loss.

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) opened with a 7-3 win over Team Morozumi of Japan, and enjoyed another comfortable win over Team Schwaller of Switzerland, twos in ends one and eight giving them a 6-3 victory.

They were edged out 4-3 by Stjerne (the Danes stealing one in end eight), but secured passage to the last eight by beating Team Brunner 5-2, scoring two against the Swiss in end one and stealing singles in ends six and seven.

Come the quarter-finals, it was over almost before it had begun for Murdoch, as Edin of Sweden scored two in end one and stole four in end two, plus another one in end three, to kill the game – handshakes at 7-0.

Brewster and Smith’s games both went down to the eighth end – Brewster leading Stjerne 2-1 in a low scoring affair (ends five to seven all blanked), but the Danes scored two in end eight to win the game 3-2.

And Smith led Ulsrud 4-3 into end eight… only to give up four at the death, and with their 7-4 defeat, the Scottish challenge in the competition was at an end.

Ulsrud saw off Edin 6-5 (after another extra end) in the last four to reach the final, where they would face De Cruz of Switzerland – who had beaten Pfister 6-5 and Stjerne 5-1 in the knockout rounds.

That pitted the two unbeaten teams in the competition against each other – and it was an suitably tight final that went down to the wire.

The Norwegians opened with two, only for De Cruz to hit right back with three. From there they exchanged singles, Ulsrud forced to one in end eight for 5-5.

That meant hammer advantage for the Swiss in the extra end, and they needed a draw to the four-foot for victory – which they made.

So an opening tour victory for last season’s European Championships runners-up, and a solid enough start for the Scots – who will all be in Canada over the next month competing in World Curling Tour events.

2016-17 season preview

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Team Mouat photobombed by Viktor Kjall in Kinross (photo: facebook.com/britishcurling/posts/1620064414990525)

So long, Rio, and on to Pyeongchang.

Yes, we have another one-and-a-half seasons of curling to enjoy first, but the 2018 Winter Olympics are certainly on everyone’s radar, with the added bonus of mixed doubles for the first time.

What Rio 2016 has done is inspire athletes – of all sports, and all levels – as only the Olympics can.

And Team GB’s unprecedented success can only encourage our curlers to work hard towards emulating this summer’s medal heroes – and perhaps becoming role models to grassroots players themselves.

Canadian powerhouse Team Homan spent the last week in the guise of great role models, inspiring the next generation through their first #HomanJrs camp.

 

Closer to home, the Royal Caledonian Curling Club held its own Summer Camp in Stirling, attracting 48 junior curlers.

British Curling, meanwhile, held a training camp in Kinross for elite performance teams, producing a series of action/interview videos to demonstrate some of what went on as the rinks gear up for the season ahead.

While many of those teams have retained their 2015-16 line-ups, others have made changes – some minor, others in the ‘overhaul’ category.

Scottish women’s champions for the last two seasons, Team Muirhead, have brought in Lauren Gray (their alternate at the Sochi Olympics) at lead in place of Sarah Reid – and Kelly Schafer (2010 Olympian) will cover for Anna Sloan while she recovers from injury.

Four-time Brier and Worlds winner Glenn Howard has been brought on board as tactical coach for the Muirhead rink too.

Team Gray, their skip having moved on, have split up – Jennifer Dodds and Vicky Wright joining a new-look Team Fleming.

There are line-up changes across the Scottish women’s game in fact, plus the addition of Hazel Smith’s rink – which includes Sarah Reid and Claire Hamilton, who’s returned to the game after a post-Sochi break.

 

As for the men, Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith are unchanged from last season. Given that Smith qualified for Europeans, Brewster for Worlds and Murdoch collected titles in Europe and Asia, that is no great surprise.

Teams Bryce, Hardie, Mouat and Whyte have shuffled their packs, however. One of the most notable switches is that of Robin Brydone – having skipped his own team in 2015-16, he moves onto Team Bryce at third.

Find a list of Scottish team line-ups and social media here.

The summer has not been quiet, not with a raft of team changes across the global game, a new concussion policy for the sport in Canada (‘the Gushue Rule’) and a Sweeping Summit designed to tackle #broomgate that said rather more about equipment than technique.

But it’s still exciting to have the real thing back after the break.

The first event of the new season for Scottish teams begins tomorrow – the Baden Masters in Switzerland, part of the Curling Champions Tour.

Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith represent Scotland at the tournament, facing the rinks of Peter De Cruz, Niklas Edin, Rasmus Stjerne, Thomas Ulsrud and more – there are 20 teams in total, playing round robin matches then knockouts.

The first competition of 2016-17 held in Scotland is the Braehead Junior International (September 2-4), followed by a dozen events throughout next month – see the dates for them all here.

This is of course a season with a major international tournament held in Scotland – the European Curling Championships in Braehead in November – so it’s an important time for the sport and its players to curl well, and hopefully draw some new players in.

Once again, you can follow news and events from the upcoming season on this blog, plus its Facebook and Twitter pages.

So good luck to all teams – especially the Scottish ones! – for the season ahead, and good curling!

Baden Masters: Team Edin pips Brewster

Two Scottish teams competed in the season opener in Switzerland – and Team Brewster finished runner-up to world champions Team Edin.

Both Team Brewster and fellow Scots Team Murdoch qualified from the Baden Masters round robin stage to make the quarter finals.

Group A saw David Murdoch’s rink come up against Teams Attinger (Switzerland), De Cruz (Switzerland), Snitil (Czech Republic) and Van Dorp (Netherlands).

Three wins and one loss (to Team De Cruz) saw Murdoch and team-mates Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow safely through.

Group D, meanwhile, pitted Team Brewster against Teams Hess (Switzerland), Gulbis (Latvia), Keller (Switzerland) and O’Connor (Canada).

Skip Tom Brewster and his rink of Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson and Hammy McMillan cruised into the quarter finals with a 100 per cent record, capped by a 9-5 win over second-placed team Keller.

There, scores of 3 in the third and sixth ends gave Brewster a 6-1 win over Team Biedermann of Switzerland.

In the other Swiss v Scots quarter final, however, Team Murdoch were unable to really get going against Team Michel, going down 6-2.

Team Michel weren’t able to complete a double over the Scottish teams in the semi final though. Team Brewster claimed scores of 3 in ends one and five to see them into the final 8-5.

The final was a tight affair. Team Edin blanked the first two ends, then scored 2 in the third. But Team Brewster replied in kind, making it 2-2 at the halfway mark.

Further scores of 2 were exchanged in ends six and seven, meaning the Swedes had hammer going into the eighth and final end with the match poised at 4-4.

There they claimed another 2, giving them victory in the final 6-4. You can watch that match back here.

Teams Brewster and Murdoch now head to Canada with their first competitive curling of 2015-16 under their belts – and it’s fair to say they’re off to an encouraging start.