Team Muirhead rule Europe again as Scotland secure medal double

 

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GOLDEN GIRLS: Team Muirhead (Pic: British Curling/WCF/Richard Gray)

 

The good news just keeps coming for Scottish curling. Not bad timing with the Winter Olympics round the corner.

Having opened the National Curling Academy this year, Scottish rinks have made their impact at the World Mixed Curling Championships (gold for Team Hardie), the Grand Slam of Curling (National men’s title for Team Mouat)… and now the daddy of the lot.

Team Smith and Team Muirhead, Great Britain’s chosen ones for the Olympics, have returned from the European Championships with gold and silver medals after quite brilliant campaigns in St Gallen, Switzerland.

Team Muirhead party like it’s 2013

Four years ago, with just months to go until the Sochi Olympics, Team Muirhead won European Championship gold by beating Sweden in the final… and now they’ve done it again!

The 2017 vintage (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate), Glenn Howard (coach)) began their campaign with a defeat – to Sweden, 5-2 – but then rattled off six straight wins to qualify for the playoffs.

They saw off Russia (8-7), Denmark (6-1), Italy (8-1), Germany (8-5), Turkey (8-3) and the Czech Republic (8-4), before finishing the round robin with a loss to Switzerland (9-7 after an extra end) and victory against Hungary (9-3).

Coming third in the women’s standings meant a semi-final with second-placed Switzerland (Silvana Tirinzoni), and after stealing two in the third end, the Scots gave up three in the fourth.

A steal in end six moved the Swiss 4-2 ahead, but after exchanging singles Muirhead hit back with three in the ninth end, and then a steal in the 10th to win 7-5 and make the final.

They faced Team Hasselborg for the gold, with the Swedes looking to win their 11th straight match in St Gallen to take the title.

The rinks exchanged singles, with Sweden leading 2-1 at halfway, but an open hit for two in the sixth end put the Scots ahead, and steals in ends nine and 10 saw them win the match 6-3 – giving them their golden moment.

Medal breakthrough for Team Smith

On the men’s side, Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead (alternate), Viktor Kjäll (coach)) were back at the Europeans, after previously representing Scotland in 2015.

It’s not been a vintage season so far for the rink, but they got off to a great start here, winning their first three round robin games – against Italy (7-3), Austria (7-3) and Russia (5-3).

That run came to a halt against Germany, as they lost 6-4, and then it was a case of ‘win one, lose one’ for the rest of the round robin, as defeats to Sweden (5-4) and Switzerland (9-4) were balanced out by victories over Slovakia (8-1), Ulsrud (8-7) and the Netherlands (5-2), as the Scots finished third in the standings on W6 L3.

That meant a semi-final with second-placed Switzerland, and what a yo-yo encounter it was, with the Scots stealing three in the second end but being pegged back to 5-5 at the fifth-end break.

The teams exchanged twos, before the Swiss stole in the eighth end to lead for the first time, 8-7, only for Smith to blank the ninth and score two in end 10 to make the final.

There they faced their near-constant nemesis, Team Edin of Sweden, who were looking for a fourth straight European title.

Early on, it looked like business as usual, with Sweden moving 3-0 ahead, but two in end four and a steal in the fifth drew the Scots level.

Two in the eighth end put them ahead, but the Swedes responded with two of their own in the ninth and then claimed a massive steal of four in the 10th to win 10-5 – a scoreline which did not reflect the closeness of the game.

Although it was not the colour of medal Team Smith wanted, it is still a first senior medal for the rink – and an ideal confidence boost ahead of the Olympics.

Bronze for Jackson

Away from the European Championships, but still in Switzerland, Team Jackson completed the set of medals for Scotland with bronze at the EJCT event in Thun.

Wins against Teams Ramsfjell, Tanner, Witschonke, Lo Deserto and Wuest sent them straight into the semi-finals, where they suffered their first defeat – against Team Danshina.

That meant a 3v4 match with Witschonke to finish, which they won to clinch the bronze medal.

 

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Team Mouat make Grand Slam history in Sault Sainte Marie

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CHAMPIONS: Team Mouat (photo: Alan Hannah/British Curling)

Team Mouat made curling history this weekend, becoming the first Scottish men’s rink to win a Grand Slam title, with Bruce Mouat the youngest ever skip to win a GSOC event.

They triumphed at the Boost National in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, seeing off Canada’s best before beating Team Chang-Min Kim of South Korea in the final.

But first, a quick update on Scotland’s teams at the 2017 European Curling Championships…

Muirhead and Smith well positioned

We are three days into the 2017 European Curling Championships in St Gallen, Switzerland, and both Scottish teams hold W4 L1 records in the round robin stage.

On the men’s side, Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead) have made a far better start than their previous campaign in Esbjerg in 2015, winning their first three – beating Italy (7-3), Austria (7-3) and Russia (5-3).

A blip followed, as they lost 6-4 to Germany, but Monday afternoon saw them bounce back in style, by beating Slovakia 8-1.

As for the women, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer) faced a tough first couple of games – losing 5-2 to Sweden but beating Russia 8-7 (after an extra end).

Their next three games were more comfortable, as they overcame Denmark 6-1, Italy 8-1 and Germany 8-5.

Mouat’s moment of history

Now to events over the Atlantic, and the Boost National in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario – which featured Teams Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregory Cannon, Michael Goodfellow) and Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan).

Drummond exited without winning a match, losing to Teams Koe (7-3), Jacobs (9-2), Lyburn (8-7) and Gunnlaugson (10-7).

By contrast, Mouat – who’d already had an amazing season, with back-to-back wins at the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard and Biosteel Oakville Fall Classic, and Grant Hardie winning the World Mixed Curling Championships – were in it for the long haul.

They only just squeezed through from the round robin, though, having won two – against Balsdon (8-4) and Morris (8-2) – and lost two – against Gushue (7-6) and McEwen (7-2).

That meant a tiebreaker with Olympic champions Team Jacobs, and threes in ends one and five helped them to an 8-5 victory.

Another three (in end four), plus steals in ends one, two, five and six, helped them ease past Team Koe 7-1 in the quarter-finals, setting up a rematch with McEwen.

This time it was Mouat who triumphed, with two in the first end, three in the fourth and a steal in the fifth firing them to a 6-4 win – meaning they were only the second Scottish men’s rink to make a Grand Slam final after Team Smith at the Tour Challenge last season.

As the top Canadian teams fell by the wayside, a Mouat v Chang-Min Kim final was a surprising one, and the Scots began it with a steal of one.

Kim scored two and then stole, only for Mouat to hit back with three in the fourth end, and a steal in the fifth and score of four in the seventh wrapped up a brilliant 9-4 win to claim the historic title.

Team Mouat said: “It’s been one hell of a week.

“The final was closer than the score suggests but we managed to take control after a few missed shots from myself in the second and third ends with a big three in the fourth.

“It’s unbelievable to think we are the first Scottish men’s team to win a Slam.

“I am so proud of our effort this week and the fact that we never doubted ourselves when we were playing the top teams in the game.”

The women’s title went to Team Jones, who beat Team Scheidegger 8-7 in the final.

Bryce and Fleming make their mark

Not to be outdone, Teams Bryce and Fleming have also put together strong runs in Canadian competition.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle) competed in the DEKALB Superspiel in Morris, Manitoba.

Their first match brought a loss, 7-6 to Team Jordan Smith, but having dropped to the B-Road they reeled off four straight wins to make the playoffs – beating Teams Friesen (7-0), Schwaller (6-5), Bohn (7-1) and Forrester (7-4).

The quarter-finals proved the end of the line though, as Schwaller of Switzerland got their revenge with a 6-5 victory after an extra end.

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) have been in Alberta, for the Red Deer Curling Classic – and they took the shortest possible route to the quarter-finals, winning their three matches on the A-Road against Teams Marthaller (7-2), Brown (7-6) and Gushulak (5-4).

The last eight brought a clash with Team Moiseeva of Russia, and steals in ends seven and eight gave the Scots a 5-3 win.

They faced Team Fujisawa of Japan in the semi-finals, and that was where their run ended – with their opponents winning 7-5 after an extra end.

McClearys make the quarters

In a very, very busy weekend, we also had the Mixed Doubles Bern tournament in Switzerland, with Judith and Lee McCleary representing Scotland.

They made the playoffs with a W5 L2 record, having overcome Teams Iseli (11-1), Wendel (10-2), Stolt (6-4), Srnska (9-5) and Kasner (9-8) – the losses being to Mei (8-2) and Moskaleva (9-2).

Jaeggi/Michel ended their challenge, though, winning their last-eight encounter 8-2.

Also at the tournament, Anna Fowler of England paired with Thomas Jaeggi, and they won three and lost four to go out in the quarter-finals of the consolation event.

…And finally, the latest Asham Under-14 Slam took place at Curl Aberdeen, with Team Carson (Orrin Carson, Logan Carson, Archie Hyslop, Charlie Gibb) winning the high road final by beating Braehead Rockers 7-0.

European Championships round-up: Scotland women medal again!

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SAY CHEESE: Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer, Glenn Howard (photo: twitter.com/Team_Muirhead)

The Braehead-hosted 2016 European Championships carried on many of the same themes from Esbjerg 12 months ago.

Sweden won men’s gold and Russia women’s gold, Scotland men fell narrowly short of the playoffs, Scotland women were disappointed not to take top spot but did medal again.

Could it have been better from a Scottish performance and attendance point of view? Yes. But there are many positives to take too, not least the BBC coverage of several matches.

***

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate)) went W9 L0 through the round robin, demonstrating a superb consistency and that they were the best women’s team in Renfrewshire.

They opened with a 6-5 win over Italy, before coming through victorious by the same scoreline against Sweden – Anna Hasselborg’s rink being tipped as a medal contender prior to the competition.

Norway were seen off 10-5, Finland 10-4, Switzerland 4-3 (stealing one in end 10), Germany 8-6, the Czech Republic 10-5 and Denmark 7-3.

Russia stood between them and a perfect round robin, and although Victoria Moiseeva’s rink had overcome reigning European champion Anna Sidorova to get to Braehead, they could not stop the Muirhead juggernaut here, the Scots winning 8-4.

But the semi-finals pitted them against each other again, and this time the match was very different.

Scotland fought gamely but there were too many mistakes, and the Russians too potent, as Moiseeva scored threes in ends three, six and eight to win 11-6.

Scotland were naturally disappointed having won nine straight ahead of the playoffs – with players and onlookers both asking whether there should be a page playoff system – but they had to pick themselves up for the bronze medal match with the Czech Republic.

That they did, stealing one in end two, scoring two in end four and stealing another single in end nine to beat the Czechs 6-2.

Bronze meant a seventh European medal for skip Muirhead, and although the rink were clearly disappointed not to make another final, they are making strides under coach Glenn Howard and you’d be foolish to bet against them taking top spot at many of the competitions still to come this season – and beyond.

Eve Muirhead said: “It is good that after the week we have had we are not going away without a medal.

“This is my seventh consecutive medal and I am glad that I have quite a lot in my collection from this tournament, albeit I would have liked another colour.

“Obviously I want to win every game I play, however you have to look at the bigger picture and we are building towards the Olympics in February 2018 so that is our focus and we are always preparing for that.”

As for the final, Moiseeva repeated the trick by shocking Hasselborg’s Swedes, stealing two in end 10 for a 6-4 victory – Russia taking women’s gold once again.

***

Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Duncan Menzies (alternate)) found the round robin much tougher going than their female counterparts, eventually going out with a W4 L5 record.

An 8-3 defeat to Denmark was a far from ideal opening to their tournament, but they then went on to beat Team Ulsrud of Norway 8-7 after an extra end.

Niklas Edin’s Swedes – the reigning champions – were up next, but Scotland were unfazed and took threes in ends eight and nine to win 8-4.

But from those high points, things got decidedly patchy for the Scots. Austria beat them 7-6 (after extra end), only for Brewster to rebound with a 6-5 victory over another pedigree side, Peter De Cruz’s Switzerland, but they were to carry no momentum for that, instead giving up a steal in end 10 to lose 6-5 to Finland.

Defeat to Germany, 4-2, was another blow to their playoff hopes, though a 6-4 win over Italy set up a winner-takes-all clash with Russia.

Alexey Timofeev’s rink, however, ended their journey by stealing two in end 10 to beat the Scots 8-6 and make the playoffs themselves.

Brewster, by overcoming De Cruz, Edin and Ulsrud, showed that they can compete with the best on the big stage. But inconsistency ultimately let them down, as they failed to string together any successive victories after the win over the Swedes.

Their sixth-placed finish did at least ensure Scottish qualification for the 2017 World Men’s Curling Championship, an achievement not to be sniffed at in a competitive field.

Skip Tom Brewster told British Curling: “We can take a lot from this, but that is for the debrief and another day. Right now we are not into the play-offs so I am feeling pretty gutted.”

The men’s final was contested by Norway and Sweden, and again the Swedes came out on top at the crucial moment, winning 6-5 after an extra end to hand Niklas Edin his third successive European title.

Switzerland defeated Russia 8-6 for men’s bronze.

***

The European Championships B-Division involved men’s and women’s teams from England, and a men’s team from Wales.

England women (Hetty Garnier, Anna Fowler, Angharad Ward, Lauren Pearce, Naomi Robinson (alternate)) came closest of the three to making the playoffs to contest for A-Division promotion and/or a World Championship spot.

Victories against Slovakia (12-4), Poland (7-6), Latvia (12-6), Turkey (5-3) and Lithuania (7-6 after an extra end), and defeats to Belarus (7-4), the Netherlands (7-6 after extra end), Estonia (6-5 after extra end) and Hungary (9-8 after extra end – notice a theme here?) saw them enter a tiebreaker with the Netherlands.

So fine are the margins between victory and defeat – as the England ladies found last year, and again with all those extra end matches this time round – and they fought all the way through to end 10 where the sides were level at 7-7, only for the Dutch to steal one and take it 8-7.

The English men (Alan MacDougall, Andrew Reed, Andrew Woolston, Thomas Jaeggi, Ben Fowler (alternate)) finished on a W4 L3 record, having beaten Belgium (15-6), Slovenia (7-3), the Netherlands (6-4) and Estonia (7-5), and lost to Latvia (10-2), Hungary (9-8) and Poland (8-3).

That win-loss record was the same as Hungary and Poland’s, but LSD saw them edged out.

Wales men (Adrien Meikle, James Pougher, Rhys Phillips, Gary Coombs, Simon Pougher (alternate)) also ended up on four wins and three losses, having defeated France (7-6 after extra end), Spain (9-6), Lithuania (8-2) and Israel (7-2), and gone down to the Czech Republic (7-3), Turkey (6-3)and Slovakia (7-4).

They needed five wins for a playoff spot, but this was a step forward for the team after they’d been forced to fight off relegation to the C-Division this time last year.

The Netherlands and Slovakia won promotion to the men’s A-Division for 2017 (replacing Denmark and Finland), while Jaap van Dorp’s Dutchmen also defeated Austria for the eighth European spot at the next World Men’s Curling Championship.

Hungary and Turkey will be in the women’s A-Division next season (taking the places of Finland and Norway), though Hungary could not overcome Italy in the World Women’s Curling Championship playoff.

France men, Spain men, Poland women and Slovakia women were relegated to the C-Division for next year.

***

Away from Braehead, four young Scottish teams took part in the European Junior Curling Tour event in Thun, Switzerland.

Team Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) exited at the group stage following defeats to Teams Stritt (8-4), Witschonke (5-1), Constantini (5-3) and Gauchat (4-3), and one win against Team Forbregd (6-2).

The same fate befell Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair), who lost to Teams Keiser (8-2), Ramsfjell (5-2), Wuest (8-5) and Beer (5-4), plus a victory over Team Loertscher (8-5).

The male teams in Thun had more success – Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) qualified directly for the semi-finals thanks to an unbeaten round robin campaign, which saw them defeat Teams Pimpini (7-2), Hoesli (6-1), Schnider (8-5), Ramsfjell (8-2) and Myran (5-2).

Joining them in the playoffs were Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean), who battled into the quarter-finals courtesy of wins over Teams Hess (6-2), Muskatewitz (5-4) and Mancini (4-3), with their reverses coming against Teams Foss (4-3) and Lottenbach (7-1).

In the quarters, Whyte staged an incredible comeback after being 8-2 down after three ends, scoring two in end four then stealing one in end five, one in six, two in seven and another two in end eight for a 10-8 triumph.

But the final proved just out of reach for both Scottish teams – Whyte edged out 3-2 by Hess and Bryce giving up a steal of two in the extra end to lose 5-3 to Lottenbach.

While Lottenbach won the men’s final (and Witschonke the women’s), Bryce claimed an 8-5 victory over Whyte in the men’s 3/4 match, scoring twos in ends three, seven and eight.

Aitken/Mouat win in Bern, Fleming second in Red Deer

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Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken won the first ever Bern Mixed Doubles title (photo: facebook.com/TeamAitkenMouat)

While European Championship curling has come home to Scotland this week, it has been overseas where Scottish teams have excelled.

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat won the inaugural Bern Mixed Doubles title in Switzerland, where Judith and Lee McCleary also claimed the Consolation competition prize.

And over in Canada, the three Scottish teams involved in the Red Deer Curling Classic all made the playoffs, with Team Fleming finishing as runners-up in the women’s section.

***

There will be 2016 European Championship round-robin and playoff summaries to come, but for now here’s a quick rundown of how the British teams are getting on after three days’ play in Braehead.

At time of writing, in the men’s A-Division, Scotland (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Duncan Menzies (alternate)) have a won three, lost three record.

Oddly enough, they’ve beaten Norway, Sweden and Switzerland – and lost to Denmark, Austria and Finland – which shows that the men’s competition is really up for grabs.

As for the women’s A-Division, Scotland (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate)) are the sole women’s side yet to lose.

They have beaten Italy, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Switzerland to lead the pack early on.

You can follow the Scottish teams’ progress throughout the week with live games shown on BBC Sport and Eurosport/World Curling TV, with match reviews and interviews via the Royal Caledonian Curling Club and British Curling, plus David Murdoch’s daily column for Herald Sport.

In the B-Division, England men sit on a W2 L3 record, Wales men on W3 L2 and England women on W4 L2. Follow scores from their remaining games here.

***

Moving outwards from Scotland, our next stop is Bern in Switzerland, where an inaugural mixed doubles competition took place this weekend.

There were two Scottish teams involved – Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat, and Judith and Lee McCleary – among 32 participants from across Europe, from Spain to Russia.

In the triple knockout format, Aitken/Mouat won their first match against Iseli/Iseli of Switzerland 10-2, and remained on the A-Road by thumping French pair Morand/Borani 14-4 (stealing five in end two).

They set up an A final by overcoming Jaeggi/Freiberger of Switzerland 7-0, but were defeated 6-4 by Hajkova/Paul from the Czech Republic.

On the B-Road they overcame Hungarian pair Szekeres/Nagy 7-2 but lost out 9-3 in the B final against Turmann/Lill of Estonia, before making the playoffs at the third time of asking by defeating Huembelin/Gubler (Switzerland) in emphatic fashion, 13-2.

McCleary/McCleary also won their first three matches, 8-6 against Swiss duo Wild/Wild, then 7-3 versus Noreen/Noreen of Sweden, and 9-2 over Grunder/Hartmann from Switzerland.

But like Aitken/Mouat they too lost their A final, 10-4 against Perret/Rios (Switzerland), and they were then knocked down to the C-Road by another Swiss pair, Michel/Michel, after a 9-6 defeat.

And a third successive loss to Swiss opposition, Jaeggi/Freiberger (6-5 after an extra end), tore up their playoff hopes – though they would still contest the Consolation event.

Aitken/Mouat faced Russian pair (and mixed doubles powerhouse) Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky in the quarter-finals, and despite a four in end four they went into the eighth end 6-5 behind – but they had hammer, and scored two to win the match 7-6.

In the last four the Scottish team had a rematch with Hajkova/Paul and this time it had the opposite outcome – Aitken/Mouat scored twos in ends one and four and stole three in end five for an 8-1 victory.

The final pitted them against Tamara and Sven Michel, and the Scots had the perfect start, with four in end one, then a steal of two in end two for a rapid 6-0 lead.

The Swiss scored two in the third end, but two for Aitken/Mouat in end four and a steal of one in end five saw the match finish 9-2 to them – meaning they had taken the title!

The Scottish success did not end there either. McCleary/McCleary had battled into the Consolation competition final with wins over Swiss teams Iseli/Iseli (9-5, with five in end six) and Clostre/Panzera (7-4).

In the Consolation final they were up against Camilla/Per Noreen – the Scottish pair stole one in end three but at halfway the Swedes led 3-2. Twos in ends five and seven, however, gave McCleary/McCleary the win 6-4.

With the Scottish Mixed Doubles Championship taking place on December 8-11, these two teams have picked a fine time to hit form as they prepare to battle each other (and six other pairs) in Braehead.

***

And now onto Canada, where three Scottish rinks competed at the Red Deer Curling Classic in Alberta.

In the men’s competition, Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) made it straight through to the A-Road final by defeating Teams Powell (5-2), Yablonski (5-2) and Park (4-2).

 

But there they suffered their first defeat – 6-4 against Team Geall. Though that was soon made up for, as they saw off Teams Lizmore 6-5 and Hanson 5-0 to make the last eight.

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Bobby Lammie (subbing for Thomas Muirhead), Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith), meanwhile, continued their recent good form – having made their first Grand Slam final last weekend – by joining Murdoch in making the playoffs.

Smith began with a 7-1 win over Team Heidt, then progressed to the A final with victories over Teams Hansen (5-2) and Appelman (7-3).

There they were edged 7-6 by Team Bottcher, but – after a rip-roaring 7-2 win over Team Koe – they secured a spot in the playoffs by beating Appelman again, 5-4 this time.

In the quarter-finals, Smith snuck past Team (Jamie) Koe, scoring two in end eight to win 6-5, but Murdoch exited the competition, beaten 6-3 by Appelman.

The last four pitted Smith against Koe again – Kevin this time – and this time the reigning world champions claimed the win, with two in end eight to take it 5-4.

Koe went on to secure the title, beating Appelman 6-5 after an extra end in the final.

Over on the women’s side, Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) made it to the knockout stage at the earliest opportunity.

Fleming powered into the playoffs with wins over Teams Min Ji Kim of Korea (4-3), Ogasawara of Japan (8-0, stealing three in end three and four in end five) and Ramsay (8-1, stealing four in end seven).

In the last eight Fleming defeated Team Kleibrink 6-4 thanks to three in end four and a steal of two in end six, and they booked their spot in the final with a fine 5-3 victory over Team Rocque, stealing two in end two and adding the decisive deuce in end seven.

But they fell short at the last against the in-form Team Chyz, giving up steals of one, three and one in the first three ends, meaning twos in ends four and six could not save them from an 8-4 defeat.

Still, though, it was an impressive run to the final in a strong field and a sign of the rink’s real progression this season.

November curling preview

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The European Championships are coming to Scotland this month – photo: facebook.com/royalcaledoniancurlingclub

The European Curling Championships are in Braehead this month – what, you hadn’t heard? That’s the really big one, but what else is going on through November? Read on…

CookstownCash (World Curling Tour)
Dates: November 3-6
Number of teams: 40 (30 men’s; 10 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Smith
Last year’s winners: Team De Cruz (Switzerland)
Website: worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4337

Team Smith take on a host of local rinks in Cookstown, Ontario, as well as big-hitters such as Team Epping, Team Howard and Team De Cruz (defending champions). The competition begins with a pool stage ahead of knockouts – Smith are in Pool D with Teams Bailey, Gordon, Robillard and Ross.

Edinburgh International Curling Championship (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: November 4-6
Number of teams: 18
Scottish teams: Team Bryce, Team Fraser, Team Hardie, Team MacDonald, Team Mouat
Last year’s winners: Team Hardie
Website: murrayfieldinternational.com

The Goldline Scottish Curling Tour’s third event of the season takes place at Murrayfield Curling in the capital. Hardie look to defend their title against home opposition and some more than capable challengers from abroad – chief among them 2016 World silver medallists Team Stjerne – with entries coming from the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and Wales.

Inverness Junior International (Asham U21 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 4-6
Number of teams: 18 (10 boys’; 8 girls’)
Last year’s winners: Team Brydone; Team Murray
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-21-slam-inverness-junior-international-4/

Usual suspects on the Scottish circuit Team Bryce and Team Jackson are not taking part in this U21 Slam, which allows the likes of Team Whyte (boys’ side), Team K Aitken and Team MacDonald (girls’) the opportunity to take advantage by gaining vital ranking points.

World Wheelchair-B Curling Championship (World Curling Federation)
Dates: November 4-6
Number of teams: 16
Last year’s winners: Norway
Website: worldcurling.org/wwhcc2017

Lohja in Finland hosts the Wheelchair-B Championship, where Scotland are represented by 2014 Winter Paralympic bronze medallist Aileen Neilson (skip), Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson and Angie Malone (alternate) – and hope to improve on last season’s fifth-place finish. England, skipped by Rosemary Lenton, also compete.

Pacific-Asia Curling Championships (World Curling Federation)
Dates: November 5-12
Number of teams: 17 (9 men’s; 8 women’s)
Last year’s winners: Soo Hyuk Kim (Korea); Satsuki Fujisawa (Japan)
Website: worldcurling.org/pacc2016

With curling’s focus being steadily pulled eastwards both by the strength of Asian teams in world competitions and the location of the 2018 Winter Olympics, this event in Uiseong, South Korea, is one to watch. The women’s rinks of Bingyu Wang (China), Satsuki Fujisawa (Japan) and Kim Eunjung (Korea) make for a fearsome threesome and the competition between them is likely to be fierce. Rui Liu (China) and Yusuke Morozumi (Japan) are among those on the men’s side.

National Masters Curling Championship – Qualifiers (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 8-10
Number of teams: 30
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/national-masters-curling-championship-qualifiers/

Greenacres hosts the qualifying event for the National Masters Curling Championship, with Scottish curlers over the age of 60 eligible to take part. Thirty rinks in six sections are expected to compete for those qualification spots.

Tour Challenge (Grand Slam of Curling)
Dates: November 8-13
Number of teams: 60 (30 men’s; 30 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Murdoch, Team Smith (tier 1), Team Brewster, Team Mouat (tier 2); Team Fleming (tier 2)
Last year’s winners: Team Koe (tier 1), Team Cotter (tier 2); Team Tirinzoni (tier 1), Team Einarson (tier 2)
Website: thegrandslamofcurling.com

Grand Slams are like buses, apparently. Two in very quick succession! After the Masters in Okotoks, Alberta, it’s time for the Tour Challenge in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Teams Murdoch and Smith go in tier 1, where Team Edin will look to make it a Swedish double after taking the Masters. Teams Brewster and Mouat are in tier 2, while Team Fleming compete in women’s tier 2.

Forfar Open (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: November 11-13
Last year’s winners: Team Mouat; Team Jackson
Website: scottishcurlingtour.blogspot.co.uk

Forfar Indoor Sports’ unique competition – the sole Scottish Curling Tour event with a women’s section – returns. Team Mouat won’t be there to defend their title (see above), nor will Team Jackson (see below), so there’ll be two new champions this season.

World Junior Women’s B Playdown (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 11-13
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/world-junior-b-playdown/

Karina Aitken and Sophie Jackson’s rinks will battle it out over a best-of-five series to fly the Scottish flag at the World Junior B Curling Championships in January – and hopefully get Scotland promoted to the A-Division for next season.

ZO Women’s Tournament (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: November 11-13
Number of teams: 24
Scottish teams: Team Aitken, Team Muirhead, Team Smith
Last year’s winners: Team Feltscher (Switzerland)
Website: curling-wetzikon.ch/cms/zo-frauencurlingturnier/en/index_en.php

Team Muirhead warm up for the European Championships with this tournament in Wetzikon, Switzerland. They are joined by Teams Gina Aitken and Hazel Smith, as well as the likes of Teams Feltscher (Switzerland), Nielsen (Denmark) and Sidorova (Russia). There are four pools of six teams, with playoffs on the Sunday.

The Baljaffray Trophy (Asham U17 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 12-13
Number of teams: 24
Last year’s winners: Team Whyte
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-17-slam-the-baljaffray-trophy-3/

Greenacres hosts the latest round of the U17 Slam series. Teams Craik, Haswell and Kinnear will once again be expected to challenge for this title and ranking points, with overall winners gaining entry to a World Curling Federation junior curling camp in Germany next year.

Mixed Doubles Bern (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: November 18-20
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Gina Aitken/Bruce Mouat, Judith McCleary/Lee McCleary
Website: curlingbern.ch/turniere/2016-2017/1-mixed-doubles-bern/

Two Scottish pairs travel to Switzerland for this inaugural mixed doubles event, to challenge alongside 30 other teams including Szekeres/Nagy (Hungary), Bryzgalova/Krusheinitcki (Russia) and Perret/Rios (Switzerland). There are qualification matches, playoffs and a consolation cup.

 Red Deer Curling Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: November 18-21
Number of teams: 54 (32 men’s; 22 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Murdoch, Team Smith; Team Fleming
Last year’s winners: Team Lizmore; Team Rocque
Website: worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4233

Red Deer, Alberta, hosts this major World Curling Tour event (triple knockout format), with the three Scottish rinks taking part being the losing teams at the European Playdowns last month. Look out for the likes of Teams Bottcher, Koe, Carey and Rocque on the men’s and women’s sides.

European Curling Championships (World Curling Federation)
Dates: November 19-26
Number of teams: 46 (26 men’s; 20 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Brewster; Team Muirhead
Last year’s winners: Team Edin (Sweden); Team Sidorova (Russia)
Website: worldcurling.org/ecc2016

It’s almost here! Braehead hosts the Europeans, with 46 teams in men’s and women’s A and B-Divisions. Can Team Brewster build on their last performance at Worlds? Will Team Edin reign supreme again (they’re on brilliant form)? Can Team Muirhead go one better than in Esbjerg, with Team Sidorova failing to qualify? Or is it time for Team Hasselborg’s true international arrival? So many questions, so many top curlers – let’s hope they attract big crowds.

Brewster and Muirhead to represent Scotland in Braehead

brewster-win-playdowns
Team Brewster, men’s winners in Perth (photo: twitter.com/Team_Brewster/status/787670325081305089)

Teams Brewster and Muirhead did it again – overcoming their compatriots to represent Scotland on the international stage.

Last season’s Scottish Championships winners (and subsequent World Championships participants) will be the home teams at next month’s European Championships in Braehead.

Speaking of Worlds, four Scots are taking part in the World Mixed Curling Championship in Kazan, Russia, and so far have won two from two.

***

Perth hosted the Playdowns to decide who would represent Scotland at the upcoming home European Championships – involving three men’s teams and two women’s.

Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) played a double round robin before a best-of-three final.

It was Murdoch who made the fast start, with two wins. First they overcame Brewster 7-5 (scoring twos in ends two, five and eight, and stealing one in end nine) and then they defeated Smith 8-5, with three in end two, two in end five and a steal of two in end 10.

 

However, Brewster got their first win on the board by edging Smith 6-5 (two in end two, steal of one in eight and using hammer for one in end 1o) and then drew level at the top of the standings on W2 L1 courtesy of a 6-3 victory over Murdoch, scoring two in end three and stealing three in end four.

Smith, who have had an impressive start to the season but found themselves W0 L2 here, had to beat Murdoch to keep their hopes of making the final alive. But again they suffered a 6-5 defeat, giving up a three in end six having been 4-1 up after five ends.

Already qualified Brewster then won 9-7 against Smith in the final round robin match, last season’s European qualifiers departing with no wins and four defeats.

The first of the final matches saw Brewster storm into a 4-0 lead through a steal of one in end two and two in end three, though Murdoch narrowed the gap to 4-2 at halfway.

Brewster, undeterred, scored two in end six and stole one in end seven to win the match 7-2.

Murdoch therefore had to win the next game, but were struck a heavy blow when Brewster scored three in end three, then stole one in end five, leading 5-1 at the halfway mark.

The rinks then exchanged twos up to end nine, where Brewster’s takeout for a deuce prompted handshakes at 9-5 – and European qualification for his team.

 

As for the women, Teams Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) and Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) went head-to-head in a best-of-five series.

Muirhead laid down an early statement of intent with a 9-3 win in the opener, scoring three in end five and twos in ends seven and nine.

The second match was tighter, Fleming scoring two in end four but Muirhead leading 3-2 at halfway… then taking a steal of three in end six. Two in end seven and a steal of one in end eight couldn’t pull it back for Fleming, Muirhead winning 7-5.

 

Fleming needed victory in the third match to stay in contention, and started it with a steal of two in end one. Muirhead, though, scored twos in ends two and four, the game level at 4-4 after five.

Muirhead took two in end six, but Fleming replied with two in end eight – the rinks then exchanging ones to set up an extra end at 7-7. Crucially for Muirhead, they held hammer in the extra, and scored two for a 9-7 victory – and qualification for Braehead.

***

Also this weekend, the World Mixed Curling Championships began in Kazan, Russia, with Scotland in Pool A alongside Belarus, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway (the defending champions) and Romania.

Scotland’s team is the same as in 2015 – Cameron Bryce, Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson – and they have made a positive start this year, with three wins.

Those have come against Italy (8-3), Norway (8-1) – albeit an entirely new Norwegian team to last year’s champions – and Japan (7-4).

Scotland’s next match is against Romania tomorrow, 2pm UK time.

Follow their progress in the remaining games here, or via the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter pages.

Weekend round-up: Carruthers and Jones end season on high

carruthers
Champions Cup winners Team Carruthers (photo: Grand Slam of Curling/Anil Mungal)

Canada reigned supreme at the season-ending Champions Cup, Teams Carruthers and Jones winning the men’s and women’s titles respectively.

None of Scotland’s representatives made the playoffs – Teams Mouat and Murdoch went out in tiebreakers, while Team Muirhead finished W1 L3 for the competition.

Meanwhile, Ireland men just missed out at the European Championships C-Division in Slovenia, as Estonia men, France men, Belarus women and Lithuania women gained promotion to the B-Division in Braehead in November.

***

The Champions Cup, a new addition to the Grand Slam of Curling tour this season, which saw the winners of various events around the world compete, was held in Sherwood Park, Alberta.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) started the competition well – first beating Team Meachem 7-2, with steals of one in ends one and two, three in end three and another steal in end six.

They then took victory over Team Clark of the USA – stealing one in end one, scoring two in end three, another two in end six and a steal of one in end seven, to win 6-2.

But defeats to Teams Epping (9-7, giving up threes in ends two and six) and McEwen (6-3, losing a two in end four and three in end seven) meant they finished W2 L2 and would need to negotiate a tiebreaker to make the playoffs.

By contrast, Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell) opened with two losses.

They went toe-to-toe with Team Gushue, the most consistent men’s rink on tour this season, but gave up a four in end six to lose 7-6.

It was more of the same against Team Carruthers, a four in end five doing the damage in an 8-4 defeat.

That meant they needed to beat European champions Team Edin to stay in contention – which they did 6-5, thanks to a three in end three and a steal of one in end eight.

And they earned a tiebreaker berth alongside Murdoch by defeating Team Shuster 7-2, scoring two in end two, stealing one in end three, scoring two in end five and stealing another two in end six to triumph 7-2.

Neither Scottish rink could make the quarter-finals, though, as Mouat were beaten 7-3 by Team Laycock and Murdoch went down 8-2 to Team Simmons, the 2014 and 2015 Brier winners playing their last event before disbanding.

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Vicki Adams, Nadine Lehmann (again subbing for Anna Sloan), Sarah Reid) were already out, having won only one of their pool stage matches.

They gave up steals in ends three, four and five to lose 7-3 to Team Einarson, before getting back on track (or so it seemed) by beating Team Lawton 7-2 – scoring two in end one, then stealing in ends two, three and four.

But they then lost 6-2 to Team Jones (giving up twos in ends four, five and seven) and 7-4 to Team Flaxey (the Canadians taking twos in ends one and four), which meant an early exit.

The women’s final was contested by Teams Homan and Jones – Homan have held the advantage over the Olympic champions (and everyone else!) this season, but that was not to be the case this time.

Jones scored two in end one, then another two in end four to lead 4-1 at halfway. Homan got two back, but three in end six stretched Jones’ lead out to 7-3, and Homan couldn’t pull that back – the Jones rink winning 7-5.

As for the men’s final, Team Carruthers got the better of Team Epping to claim victory, but only after two extra ends.

The first three ends were blanked by Carruthers, who took one in the fourth. Epping scored two in end five, Carruthers two in end seven and Epping one in end eight.

The first extra end was blanked, but Carruthers got their one in the second for the inaugural title – and to round off the curling season for 2015-16.

***

Back across the Atlantic, the European Championships C-Division was held in Ljubljana, Slovenia – with four places at the main Europeans event in Braehead in November at stake.

Ireland had men’s and women’s teams taking part, with the competition involving a round robin and then playoffs.

Ireland men (Alan Mitchell, Andrew Gilmore, Bob Sherrard, Tom Roche, John Gilmore (alternate)) started with a win against Serbia, 8-4, but were then beaten 10-3 by Estonia.

They hit back by defeating Croatia 8-3 but then lost again, 6-4 against Bulgaria.

A 6-3 win over France got them back on track, and they followed that with wins over Luxembourg (9-8), Andorra (12-1) and Romania (10-4).

Defeat to Belarus, 6-4, meant they had to win their last pool match to make playoffs – which they did, 8-5 against Iceland.

They were placed in the 3v4 game against Bulgaria. After leading 3-0 after two ends and 6-3 after eight, the Irish were taken to an extra end – where they scored three to win 9-6 and progress.

Qualification for Braehead came down to the silver medal match with France. Ireland blanked the first two ends, then scored three in end three.

But France scored two in end four, stole two in end five and stole a single in end six to take control. Ireland pulled it back to 5-5 after eight but the French scored two in end nine.

The 10th end ultimately rested on a final draw for the Irish, which came up a couple of inches short – that meant a score of one and a 7-6 win for France.

France joined gold winners Estonia in being promoted to European B-Division for next season – but for the disappointed Irish it must be said that bronze represents a superb result beyond expectation.

As for Ireland women (Ailsa Anderson, Katie Kerr, Hazel Gormley-Leahy, Clare McCormick), they also opened the round robin with a win, 9-6 versus Romania.

But sadly their luck ran out there, as they suffered six consecutive defeats – against Croatia (10-9), Lithuania (6-5), Slovenia (10-5), Spain (10-1), Belarus (8-3) and Austria (13-5) – to bow out early.

Belarus claimed women’s gold, with Lithuania joining them in winning promotion to the B-Division.