Players’ playoff pain for Muirhead and Smith

edin players
HAT-TRICK: Team Edin won their third Grand Slam title of the season at the Players’ Championship. Pic: twitter.com/grandslamcurl (Anil Mungal)

Both Team Muirhead and Team Smith put in strong performances at the Grand Slam of Curling Players’ Championship, exiting at the playoff stages – both to the eventual winners in Toronto.

The Muirhead rink squeezed into the last eight in the women’s competition – at an event they have won three times – but on this occasion they were beaten in the quarter-finals by Team Jones, who ultimately took victory in the final.

Kyle Smith’s quartet went one better – making it to the men’s semi-finals – but there they were undone by Team Edin, who went on to become champions.

***

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) began their run in emphatic style, scoring two in end three and four in end seven for an 8-2 victory over Team Epping.

But they were on the wrong side of that scoreline in their next match, giving up threes in ends one and five in defeat to Team Edin of Sweden.

Undeterred, they came back with an 8-3 win over Team Laycock – scoring three in end one, two in end three and two in end seven – before edging past Team Jacobs, as they took a two in the first end and then traded singles, claiming the one point needed in the eighth for a 5-4 triumph.

An 8-6 loss to Team De Cruz in their final round robin match could not deny them a spot in the quarter-finals, where they once again met Jacobs.

Smith scored three in end two and one in end four to lead 4-3 at halfway, staying in control with two in end six and one in the eighth to clinch it 7-6.

In the final four they were pitted against Edin, and again it was the Swedes who came out on top – thanks to a steal of two in end five and another two in end seven, for a 6-2 victory.

That doesn’t take away from a super run at their first Players’ Championship by the Smith rink, who have enjoyed a real breakthrough season in Grand Slam competition – and are the focus of the below video feature.

Edin went on to claim their third Grand Slam title of the season, defeating Team McEwen 5-3 in the men’s final with steals in ends seven and eight.

***

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Kelly Schafer (filling in for Lauren Gray at lead)) have some history with the Players’ Championship, having won the women’s title three times in Toronto.

They were off to a losing start this time though, as Team Sweeting scored twos in ends three and six, then took their one with hammer in the eighth, to beat the Scots 6-5.

Muirhead got back on track against Team Jones – stealing in ends one, two and three to lead 4-0, then adding three more points in ends six and seven for a 7-3 win – but that was followed by a 5-2 loss to Team Hasselborg.

They then lost 6-4 to Team Fleury – giving up critical steals in ends five and six – but eked out a quarter-final spot courtesy of victory over Team Englot, as they stole their way to a 5-0 lead after two ends and held on to take it 8-6.

The last eight brought a rematch with Jennifer Jones’ rink, and this time the Canadians nicked it 6-5.

Muirhead stole in end one but Jones claimed three in the second, only for the Scots to answer with two and a steal of one to lead 4-3 after four.

Jones, though, scored singles in ends five, six and seven – and Muirhead could only manage one in end eight, handing their opponents the win.

The Jones rink went on to win the title – their sixth! – by overcoming Sweeting 8-4 in the final.

***

There is plenty more curling coming up this week, starting with the European Masters in St Gallen (April 19-22) – with Teams Brewster, Murdoch (the holders) and Smith in the men’s competition, and Team Fleming in the women’s.

Then from April 22-29 we have the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship and World Senior Curling Championship, both in Lethbridge, Canada.

Scotland are represented by Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat at the World Mixed, and by Team Drysdale (men’s) and Team Lockhart (women’s) for the World Seniors.

Weekend round-up: Team Muirhead win third Players’ Championship

players win mhd
Team Muirhead, Players’ Championship winners (photo: Grand Slam of Curling/Anil Mungal)

Team Muirhead reigned supreme in Toronto once again, winning their third Players’ Championship in the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

It was also a successful competition for Team Murdoch, as they reached their first ever semi-final at a Grand Slam of Curling event.

Meanwhile, in Karlstad, Sweden, Scotland’s teams have begun their campaigns at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship and World Senior Curling Championships.

***

Team Muirhead – Eve Muirhead, Vicki Adams and Sarah Reid being joined by Cathy Overton-Clapham at second, with regular vice-skip Anna Sloan still out with her ACL injury – went into the Players’ Championship as holders.

They began well, beating Team Pätz 6-5 with twos in ends three and six, plus a steal in end four.

Muirhead then lost 8-5 to Team Rocque (giving up a five in end six) but bounced back with wins over Teams Sweeting (4-3) and Jones (7-4), the latter seeing them go 5-0 up after four ends and seeing it out.

They finished off the pool stage with a 5-4 victory over Team Sidorova (stealing one in end two and scoring two in end four), which set up a quarter-final against Team Brown.

The Scots overwhelmed their American opponents, scoring twos in ends one and three, stealing three in end four and then finishing the game with a five in end seven for a 12-4 scoreline.

The quarters also saw a shock exit for Team Homan, the top women’s rink this season, to Team Einarson (7-6, after being 6-2 up), but not before they had sealed the Rogers Grand Slam Cup for their consistency in the big events.

In the semi-finals, Muirhead had another fast start, scoring threes in ends two and four as they overcame Team Tirinzoni 7-2, in a repeat of the Perth Ladies International final.

It was a clash of the multiple Players’ Championship winners in the final in Toronto, as Muirhead (two titles) took on Jones (five titles).

Muirhead made a clutch draw against four for one in end one, then stole in end two to lead 2-0. Jones hit back with three in end three, but a two for Muirhead in end four nudged them back ahead at halfway.

Jones was forced to one in end five, before Muirhead blew the game open with two excellent skip stones to score three.

The Canadians scored two in end seven to narrow the gap to one, but the Muirhead rink held their nerve in end eight, scoring two to win the game 9-6 and clinch another title.

Skip Muirhead said: “I just seem to really love it here. It seems to bring out the best [in us]. Three times we’ve been here and three times won it.

“I’m happy it’s here the next year as well. I think it’s really the crowd that makes it. The ice conditions have been fantastic. My team has been great all week.”

This title caps a hugely successful couple of weeks since Worlds, having won in Perth and Toronto now, and is a testament to the fine work of ‘super spare’ Overton-Clapham.

It also secures Team Muirhead a spot in the season-ending Champions Cup, which runs April 26-May 1.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) were placed in a tough-looking group but came through with three wins to two losses.

After taking Team McEwen to an extra end before losing 7-6, they defeated Team Shuster 8-6 – stealing two in the extra end!

They followed that up by beating Team Laycock 8-6, with two in four, three in end six and two in end eight – and then came another match with an extra end, or rather two extra ends, as David Murdoch made an extraordinary shot to clear the house to blank, before claiming one in the extra extra to win 6-5.

Murdoch lost 5-2 to Team Gushue (giving up a four in end five) in their last pool stage game, but they had still secured a quarter-final spot.

There they played Team Howard, taking the victory 8-2 thanks to three in end three, two in end five and a steal of two in end six.

That set up another match with Gushue, and again Gushue proved too strong – scoring twos in ends one, five and seven to win 6-2 – but it was a great run by the Murdoch rink (to their first ever Grand Slam semi) who, like Muirhead, are having a strong finish to the season.

Gushue, the Rogers Grand Slam Cup winner on the men’s side, went on to win a tight final against Team Jacobs, stealing one in end two, scoring two in end six and blanking end eight to win 5-4.

For more photos from the event, see the gallery here, and – as ever – Ben Hebert’s Sheet Show is a delight.

***

Back in Europe, the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship and World Senior Curling Championships are underway.

At time of writing, Scotland’s mixed doubles pairing of Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat sit W1 L1 after a 9-8 victory over Russia (stealing one in the extra end) and a 8-2 defeat to the Czech Republic.

Anna and Ben Fowler of England sit on two wins after being Romania and Luxembourg, while Wales’ Dawn Watson and Adrian Meikle have one win (over Qatar) and one loss (to Brazil) – and Ireland (Alison and Neil Fyfe) are also W1 L1 having beaten Italy and lost to Canada.

Follow live scores from the rest of the tournament here, and watch selected games on World Curling TV.

In World Seniors, meanwhile, Scotland men (Gordon Muirhead, Norman Brown, David Hay, Hugh Aitken) won their first match 7-4 against the Czech Republic, but lost their second, 7-6 against the USA after an extra end.

They bounced back with a win in their third game though, 7-2 versus Latvia.

Scotland women (Jackie Lockhart, Christine Cannon, Isobel Hannen, Margaret Richardson, Margaret Robertson (alternate)) won their opener 9-1 versus Italy and they followed that up with 8-1 victories over Switzerland and New Zealand.

As for the other teams from the British Isles, both England men and women sit W4 L0, Wales men are W2 L2, and Ireland men W4 L1.

Keep up to date with World Seniors scores throughout the week here.