Try Curling: Sport targets more grassroots players

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Can’t hack it: Yours truly on the ice in Perth (photo: Aline Hardie/RCCC)

Family success stories are great – but for curling to thrive, more people (especially youngsters) from outside the sport’s traditional community need to fall in love with it.

The Roaring Game Blog spoke to Fiona Kennedy, development manager at the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, about the Try Curling initiative and its impact in Scotland.

And yes, I did also get down on the ice while in Perth… more on that later.

***

Curling family dynasties are great for players, fans and journalists Рthe headlines are almost too easy to write.

First this week, in Canada, we had the Scotties all-star team… all with Brier-winning dads.

Then, back in Scotland, we had Gordon Muirhead skipping his way to another Scottish Seniors title, after his kids Glen and Eve had won the men’s and women’s titles respectively at the the Scottish Championships the week before.

They’re fantastic stories, part of what makes curling a delight to¬†watch and write about.

But it’s just not sustainable for the future of the sport – in Scotland or worldwide – and so players need to be found in non-curling families.

There have been some success stories. Sophie Jackson, who is skipping the Scottish women’s team at the World Juniors in Copenhagen from tomorrow, had no family history in curling – she got into it through her school.

But more need to be found and nurtured.

Fiona Kennedy, RCCC¬†development manager, is responsible for the governing body’s schools programme, summer camps (for adults and juniors), seminars and workshops, and disability curling projects.

As she puts it: “It’s all about trying to get more people curling through these different programmes.”

She manages the development officers and groups at ice rinks across Scotland, who put the projects like Try Curling and virtual clubs – into practice.

Try Curling is an absolute beginner’s guide to the sport, with sessions running throughout the country. It involves how to (safely) get on the ice, how to deliver a stone and how to sweep – with a game at the end too.

Asked how well Try Curling is progressing, Fiona said: “Really well. This year so far we’ve had 146 sessions offered – not all of them run but most do, depending on the time of day and where they are.

“I think our numbers are going to be about 800 participants at the moment, more by the end of the season.”

There is a ‘huge mix’ in terms of the people who come to the sessions, Fiona said.

“We have some specific Try Curling sessions – some are open to all, some areas are now doing specific ones as well.

“For example: stick curling, those who are maybe not as confident on the ice, are older or have a disability, so they can use a stick to deliver; junior specific; wheelchair specific.

“So it can be anyone in an ordinary Try Curling session but we are trying to do specific ones to target different audiences.”

Try Curling has been running for three years or thereabouts, Fiona said Рshe is relatively new in her RCCC role, so it was well established when she came on board.

“It had huge success off the back of the last Winter Olympics,” she added.

“We’ve kept it going and hope to retain it for the Europeans later this year in¬†Glasgow and the next Olympics, and other events.

“It’s been a very successful programme in terms of a pathway for people to follow.”

That pathway takes Try Curling attendees onto beginners courses hosted by ice rinks – six to eight hours’ coaching – and then either into a club, or into a ‘virtual club’.

This, Fiona explains, is an in-between set-up, where you are a member for two years, still benefiting from coaching to really build up the skills needed to play matches, giving you every preparation for entering a club environment.

As already mentioned, this is a big year – the first of five big years – for curling in Scotland, with the European Championships coming to Glasgow (Braehead) in November.

After that, Aberdeen hosts the World Juniors in 2018, Stirling hosts the World Wheelchair Championship in 2019 and Glasgow hosts the World Men’s Championships in 2020.

That means looking at ‘legacy’ – using high-profile events to boost the sport in the country and drive up participation.

Fiona said: “We have a legacy project, a big one with Europeans this year.

“We’re looking at branching out and upskilling some of the people in the Glasgow and Renfrew areas, and getting children along.”

That legacy will be stretched through to 2020, with programmes designed to target regions and different audiences.

“The makeup of those will be slightly different, but I think we’d be stupid not to try to utilise these events and make sure we get in as many people as possible – even just raising the awareness of the sport, if not getting them on ice,” Fiona added.

***

So, as promised, my own curling taster session in Perth.

Sadly, residing in southern England, I have not been able to put my affection for the sport into practice since I caught the curling bug in 2013 – my nearest rink is Fenton’s in Kent, 165 miles away!

Therefore, I had the rare treat of getting on the ice thanks to the RCCC staff at the Scottish Championships, with Simon Elder on coaching duties.

Simon, who coaches in Perth on Try Curling sessions and the schools programme, took four of us through the basics.

It was a condensed session before the Championship semi-finals, so aside from a little bit of sweeping practice, the focus was on the stone delivery Рstance in the hack, body position when sliding out and making an in-turn or out-turn rotation.

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‘Where do I put my chronically uncoordinated limbs?’ (photo: Aline Hardie/RCCC)

It was tough.¬†Unfamiliarity with the ice and a lot of thinking (which body part goes where?) meant there wasn’t much force in my slides… and I hogged every stone. Comfortably.

Still, Simon remained patient and helpful – pointing out the key things I was doing wrong and passing on the tips to improve.

The men and women I was watching in the Championships had been doing this for years, which made all of it second nature.

It’s fair to say I have a long¬†chase ahead of me!

 

 

 

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#scc2016 day seven: Muirhead and Brewster crowned champions

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Women’s champions – Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid (photo: Tom Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

Team Muirhead won the Scottish Championships women’s title with a strong finish in the final, before Team Brewster¬†won the men’s competition – they¬†will represent Scotland at the World Men’s and Women’s Championships.

Muirhead recovered from losing a three in end four to beat Team Gray 8-4, while Brewster put in a consistent performance centred around a three in end five to defeat Team Murdoch 5-4.

For Muirhead, that means playing at the World Women’s Championship in Swift Current, Canada, from¬†March 19-27; for Brewster, the World Men’s Championships in Basel, Switzerland, April 2-10.

***

Team Muirhead were big favourites for the women’s title, and started confidently, with a two in end one.

However, mistakes then crept into their game, and after a couple of forces, Team Gray scored three in end four to lead 4-3.

Muirhead were forced again in end five, but after the fifth end break they hit back with a vengeance – stealing two in end six.

A steal of two in end eight effectively killed the game off, with Gray run out of stones in end 10 for an 8-4 final score.

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Team Muirhead’s lead, Sarah Reid (photo: Tom Brydone)

For skip Eve Muirhead, this meant a sixth Scottish title. She said: “It was a game of two halves for sure. We started strongly and Lauren came back at us.

“But the second part of the game is the most important part and that’s exactly when we stepped it up, got the little inches sorted out and put the pressure on them to get the couple of mistakes that we needed.

“To go unbeaten in a championships is tough, and we managed that. But it’s the final game that counts, so we’re delighted to win and can’t wait for Worlds.”

Team Muirhead coach David Hay said: “This was absolutely vital for us, to get to Worlds and get the Olympic qualifying points.

“So we structured our season to give us a three-week break before this, and come out fit and firing.

“At halfway we moved one of our lead stones, because we felt one of Eve’s wasn’t drawing enough and one of Sarah’s was a lot more, and swapped them round.

“We wanted better set-ups – the lead stones¬†dictate the whole end; Sarah had a great second half and got us going. Then Eve’s two draws for the¬†steal of two in end eight was the turning point.

“We go to Worlds with high expectations as always; we want to win the gold medal and – in the back of your mind – get Olympic points as well.”

For Lauren Gray, disappointment, but encouragement from the performance of her inexperienced team.

“We had a strong start in the game, something to build on for sure.

“The gap [to Muirhead] hasn’t closed fully yet, but we’re taking the steps to do that.”

***

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Men’s champions – Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, with coach Mike Harris (photo: Tom Brydone)

There was victory for Team Brewster – and another Muirhead, Eve’s brother Glen – in the men’s final several hours later.

The Brewster rink had dominated the round robin, losing only once, but their opponents Team Murdoch had played with renewed purpose in their tiebreaker, 3v4 game and semi-final to make it to Saturday’s decider.

Brewster blanked the first two ends before being forced to one in end three.

But Murdoch were themselves forced in end four, and Brewster struck the pivotal blow in end five, scoring three to lead 4-1.

From there, the teams traded steals – Brewster keeping the game simple given their advantage – and Brewster was left with an open hit to win 5-4, which he duly made.

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Team Brewster’s skip, Tom Brewster (photo: Tom Brydone)

Skip Tom Brewster said: “Finals always have a nervous start. When the three came along that was great and we were really solid after that.

“[Coach Mike Harris] has brought vast knowledge, he’s tactically very good, has experience of major championships. He’s been where we’re going, knows how to make finals, and all the ins and outs of curling.

“For Worlds we don’t need to do anything different. We just need to prepare as hard or harder than we prepared for this week.”

Mike Harris said: “They’ve been really good all week, very consistent, and they maintained that high level of play.

“Getting to Worlds is such a huge hurdle, when you get there strangely the pressure is off. But their expectations are high.

“The way they’re playing now, they’ll be just fine against the best teams in the world.”

***

The Scottish Championships have been a fantastic event to cover: watching high quality games, speaking to athletes and fans, and enjoying the atmosphere Рthe Royal Caledonian Curling Club and Perth Curling have really stepped things up from last year, and for finals day to sell out (regardless of the charging for tickets) was great news.

Thank you to the organisers, coaches and athletes who gave me time and assistance with my writing, and spending some time on the ice… a feature on that will follow next week.

Thank you to CurlingGeek, the platform which allowed me to showcase Scottish curling and attracted more than 200 fans to the men’s final, and to Tom Brydone for his superb photos and commitment to the sport.

And thank you to the readers of this blog, the retweeters and shot-by-shot followers. I’ve had a number of¬†people in Perth thank me for my coverage – I do it because I adore the sport and I feel it, and those who play it, deserve far more exposure than they¬†get – but it’s your enthusiasm and interaction as fans who fuel the momentum we’re building.

Interview: Mike Harris and Ian Tetley at the Scottish Curling Championships

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Mike Harris with Team Brewster (photo: Tom Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages)

The Roaring Game Blog sat down with Mike Harris and Ian Tetley, the Canadian coaches of Teams Brewster and Murdoch respectively, to talk about the Scottish Championships and curling in the country – now and in future – more generally.

Mike Harris is an Olympic silver medallist (1998), and has since worked in curling commentary for CBC/Rogers/Sportsnet, as well as being heavily invested in another sport, golf.

Ian Tetley, meanwhile, is a three-time Brier and World champion (1985, 1990, 1998), having played alongside such legends as Al Hackner, Ed Werenich and Wayne Middaugh Рand, indeed, Mike Harris.

As to how they got involved with the teams they now coach, both have known the skips – Tom Brewster and David Murdoch – for years, but it is only this season they’ve developed a more formal¬†relationship.

Harris said: “I got a call from Tom [Brewster] towards the end of last season. I said no initially, because I was still playing a bit and I do commentary for Canadian TV.

“But I ran into him in the first Slam [this season] in Newfoundland [the Tour Challenge]. He said he was still interested, I gave him the dates I could do, and they said great.”

As for Tetley and Murdoch, it was a meeting in September 2014 at the Stu Sells event in Oakville and an invitation to dinner that sparked things off.

Tetley said: “I suggested to them then, if they ever needed someone to work with them or consult, I’d be interested.

“So in July [2015] Dave gave me a call and said ‘here’s the programme, here’s what’s going on, and am I interested’. I took a few days, talked to my wife, and it came to fruition.”

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David Murdoch (photo: Tom Brydone)

We spoke shortly after Brewster’s 8-2 win over Murdoch in the round robin – a precursor to this afternoon’s final if you like – where Murdoch found himself 4-0 down after two ends.

“Dave stuck his neck out a bit in the first end and he gets burned,” Tetley said.

“When you give up two in the first end, you’ve got to shake it off, be patient and work it back, but he stuck his neck out again and got burned again.”

Harris added: “We didn’t actually take that much of a risk. If you’re going to call aggressive shots, you’ve got to make them all.

“Second end, they didn’t make the last three or four shots, and we stole two. We look to take the positives out of this, and Dave’s guys will say, ‘how can we fix this?'”

Murdoch’s rink seems to have learned from the ‘teachable moments’, as Tetley calls them, and have been on dominant form since the round robin, dispatching Team Smith 9-2 in the tiebreaker, Team Mouat 8-3 in the 3v4 game and Team Bryce 7-2 in the semi-final.

But both Harris and Tetley have been impressed with the standard of the young Scottish teams in Perth this week.

Harris said: “They play with a lot of risk – you need to temper that.¬†But when we were 19, 20 years old, we did the same thing – but you try and learn from the top skips.

“Patience is a big part of being a good skip and against the really good teams it tends to bite you if you’re not. But they’re impressive.”

Scottish curling is ‘in a good place right now’, Tetley said, adding: “It’s nice to know there are some good young teams in the pipeline that will replace the Daves and Toms when they get long in the tooth… unless Glenn Howard is the benchmark!”

Harris also made the point that it’s a positive for the young teams to be playing against elite opposition early.

“We don’t have that very often in Canada,” he said.¬†“We had a bit of an exception with Dunstone this year making the Manitoba final… but there aren’t too many junior teams in Ontario really putting themselves out there like Dunstone does.

“I like seeing teams like Mouat coming over and making the semis in Gatineau, a big World Curling Tour event, an impressive performance from someone we’d never seen before.”

The support system, for elite teams and younger ones alike, is ‘second to none’, Harris added.

“[Curling Canada] can’t manage teams the way [the Royal Caledonian Curling Club]¬†does, there’s just too many teams, so they can’t possibly provide everything the teams here have access to.

“I think it’s a great advantage for them.”

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Bruce Mouat, whose young team impressed in Perth (photo: Tom Brydone)

I moved on to the ‘million dollar question(s)’: what separates the top Canadian teams from Brewster and Murdoch (and the young teams coming through), and what can the¬†Scots¬†do to close the gap?

Experience is one thing, Harris said, but consistency is huge:¬†“On your bad days, you need to be pretty damn good.

“The top guys… when they’re not at their best they still find ways to win. That’s an intangible, it’s hard to coach that.”

That, and strategy, as – in Tetley’s words – Brewster and Murdoch’s rinks ‘technically throw as well as anyone in the world’.

He added: “Mike and I grew up in the era of Al Hackners and Ed Werenichs, Russ Howards… these guys were all excellent students of the game.

“We grew with the game and you learned how to make the shots. I don’t think Scotland had that same sort of tutelage.

“[For us] that was a training ground that was second to none.”

Harris said that you might think the best teams make all their shots, but they don’t.

“But because they make good decisions, they don’t have to make everything,” he said. “You make poor decisions, you have to throw 100 per cent. You don’t want to have to do that!

“Technically, throwing and sweeping, there’s nothing separating our guys from the Canadians teams – I’d argue they throw it better actually.

“There’s no lack of preparation. So strategy and consistency are the two key factors I think.”

Both Harris and Tetley stress that it’s down to the placing of shots, angles and knowing how to err on the right side – and not just the skips.

“Sweepers [need to know] what would be a good plan B,” Harris said.

“Is it better to bump it four inches or stop four inches short of the rock? The top teams don’t make those mistakes.”

After the Scottish Championships, what next for Harris, Tetley and their teams? For one of them, there will be the Worlds in Switzerland in April of course.

“I haven’t really discussed that with my guys, but I hope they like what I’m doing,” Harris said.

“I’d like to work through to the next Olympic cycle – trying to get to Korea, that’s both our mindsets.”

Tetley is looking forward to the St Gallen Masters event in¬†April, and added: “I would love to work with these guys through the next Olympic cycle.

“They’ve had a great mindset the last few months, so I like where they’re going.”

Finally, I asked what they enjoy about Scotland itself.

“We got in a game of golf on Friday, and might squeeze in another before we go home,” Harris said.

“In all my years as a curler I never even played a bonspiel here. Getting to see a new part of the world is one of the great things about curling.”

For Tetley, there is the odd side-effect of being in Scotland.

He said:¬†“I love the culture and the local food, and I always try to eat that… look at the size of me!”

Cue laughter.

“The last time I was here was 1985 for the Worlds in Glasgow,” he added, “and an event in Aberdeen later that year.

“You’ve got a gorgeous country here and I want to see more of it.”

***

Who will come out on top between Brewster and Murdoch, Harris and Tetley, in the crunch match?

Follow the Scottish Curling Championships¬†men’s final in Perth from 4pm shot-by-shot here.¬†

 

#scc2016 day six: Final reckoning

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Anna Sloan of Team Muirhead, the defending¬†champions¬†reaching another women’s final (photo: Tom Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

Teams Brewster and Muirhead kept up their impressive form by storming into tomorrow’s men’s and women’s finals at the Scottish Curling Championships, later joined by Teams Murdoch¬†and Gray.

Brewster defeated Team Bryce in the men’s 1v2 game, while Muirhead eased past Team Fleming in the 1v2 on the women’s side.

Then, in the evening’s semi-finals, Murdoch outplayed Bryce to set up a big match-up with Brewster, while Gray defeated Fleming after an extra end to make the women’s final.

***

There were no great shocks in the lunchtime page playoffs, as Teams Muirhead, Brewster and Murdoch came out winners.

Muirhead played Team Fleming in the women’s 1v2 game – they had beaten Fleming 8-2 in the round robin stage, and won this game just as convincingly.

The defending champions got off to the best possible start with a three in end one, before stealing two in end four.

Fleming scored two in end five to give themselves hope, but Muirhead stole two in end seven and one in end eight for a 9-2 final score.

Afterwards, Eve Muirhead said: “We came out the blocks sharp and the three [in end one] gave us a bit of a jump.

“It was a long time to defend a lead but we had composure and good shot-making, making our peels when we had to.

“We’ll maybe watch some of the semi-finals tonight, but for us now it’s about keeping our composure, chilling out and getting ready for our next game.”

Team Brewster had won their last six games in the men’s round robin, and kept their run going by beating Team Bryce 7-3 in the men’s 1v2 to make it into the¬†final.

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Glen Muirhead throws for Team Brewster (photo: Tom Brydone)

Brewster scored two in end one, and although Bryce hit back with two in end three, the response was immediate: another two in end four, and a 4-2 lead.

The teams exchanged ones in ends five and six, before a steal of two in end nine finished the job for Brewster, 7-3 winners.

Skip Tom Brewster said: “We’re quite confident, technically we’re throwing really well and drawing well.

“Bryce are a good team but we have a lot more experience and that maybe showed in the game – we felt in control from the two in the first end, and were never overly troubled.”

In the men’s 3v4 game, Team Murdoch overcame Team Mouat 8-3, setting up a semi-final with Bryce and knocking Mouat out of the competition.

The first five ends were very tight, Murdoch leading 2-1, but a steal of two in end six made that 4-1.

Mouat struck back with two in end seven, but Murdoch scored three in end eight and stole one in end nine to bring matters to a close.

***

Teams Bryce and Fleming, beaten in the 1v2 games, had second chances to make the men’s and women’s finals respectively – playing semi-finals in the evening.

But neither could take those chances, with Bryce getting off to the worst possible start against a team of Murdoch’s experience, giving up a steal of three in end one.

From there Murdoch remained in charge, exchanging ones and stealing two in end five on their way to a 7-2 win Рsince their loss in the last game of the round robin, they have really had the bit between their teeth, and it should be a cracking final against Brewster.

In the women’s semi, a tight opening half of the game was broken by a two for Fleming in end six that saw them go 4-2 up.

Team Gray, however, fought back with a two in end eight and a steal of two in end nine – and it took a superb hit for two from Hannah Fleming in end 10 to take the game to an extra end.

There, Gray’s rink kept it clean and, after Fleming’s last stone picked, Gray made an open draw to win 7-6.

Afterwards, Lauren Gray said: “We’ve got a record between us [Teams Fleming and Gray] – we beat them, they beat us. So we knew we had a chance; in practice we just focused on playing good shots.

“Eve’s rink has so much experience; this is our second year together. We can take confidence from our semi-tight game in the round robin.

“If we can keep it close down ends eight, nine, 10… curling’s curling and anything can happen.”

***

Tomorrow is finals day. Muirhead play Gray¬†in the women’s final from 11am.

Then, from 4pm, Brewster play Murdoch¬†in the men’s final.

Both finals have¬†sold out (information for ticket holders here), and there will not be live streaming, so if you’re not going to be in Perth, you can follow both finals live, shot-by-shot on CurlingGeek.

And once again there will be updates throughout the day on the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter.

#scc2016 day four: Playoff pandemonium

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It was a Hardie day and night for Grant Hardie and co, but they remain in playoff contention (photo: Tom Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

The Scottish Curling Championships head into their fifth day with only Team Brewster certain of a playoff place in the men’s section, and only Team Muirhead secure in the women’s.

Brewster won twice more, including against Team Murdoch, to nail down their spot in the final four, while two Wednesday wins for Team Smith means there are five teams in contention for the three spots below Brewster.

Muirhead remain unbeaten, and while Team Gray also look good for a playoff spot, they cannot yet be certain, with five teams below them all still harbouring hopes of making the knock-outs, swinging on results across the final draw.

***

I’ve seen it before from Team Muirhead, but not quite like this.

They found themselves 6-1 down after four ends to Team G Aitken in the fifth women’s draw, having conceded three in the first end and lost steals in ends three and four.

But they hauled themselves back into the match with two in end five and a steal in end nine – yet still needed to steal two in end 10 to force an extra.

They did that – and more – as Aitken’s last crashed on a guard to give up three, and the win 8-7.

Eve Muirhead said afterwards: “Gina started very well and deserved to get the jump on us. But we have experience as a team and were never out of the game.

“We were unlucky not to steal two in end nine, and played a¬†perfect last end.

“We’re playing well, not firing on all cylinders, but we want to save our best for later in the week.”

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Eve Muirhead’s rink are still unbeaten – just (photo: Tom Brydone)

There was an equally dramatic game between Teams Fleming and Jackson, as Fleming moved into a 5-1 lead by end five but gave up a steal of three in end seven as Jackson came back to lead 7-6 after nine.

Fleming could only score one in end 10; Jackson hit and rolled out to accidentally blank the extra end, but scored her one in the extra extra end to win 8-7.

Jackson joined Team Gray on W3 L2, after Gray surprisingly lost 10-4 to Team Young, who scored two in end one and threes in ends six and eight.

Team Murray (with Kirsty Barr subbing in for Katie Murray, away for academic commitments, and Rebecca Morrison at skip) stole two in end eight and scored another two in end 10 to beat Team K Aitken 9-6.

***

Men’s draw seven saw Team Brewster move clear at the top of the standings on six wins, scoring two in end one, stealing two in end two and scoring three in end six for a strangely straightforward 8-2¬†victory over Team Murdoch.

Murdoch was joined on five wins and two losses by Teams Bryce (who stole their way to a 4-0 lead and added three in end seven and two in end eight to beat Team Brydone 9-3) and Mouat – who scored twos in ends one and two, three in end three, two in end five and one in end six to ease past Combe 10-1.

Also on W5 L2 were Team Hardie, who came up against a resurgent Team MacDonald, the 2015 champions gaining a 5-3 lead, losing it, but forcing in end 10 – Ewan MacDonald making the hit for two with his last for an 8-6 extra end win.

Finally, Team Smith clung onto their playoff hopes, moving to W4 L3 by beating Team Macleod 5-1, crucially stealing three in end five.

Skip Kyle Smith said: “We’ve made fewer mistakes and made more shots [the last two games] after struggling before.

“It’s all about winning our last two games – playing like we know we can play.”

***

Compared to the drama of the morning, the sixth women’s draw was rather more routine.

Certainly that was the case for Muirhead, who moved to six wins from six by beating K Aitken 11-2, with a steal of one in end two, a two with hammer in end four, a four in end six and a steal of three in end seven to finish the job.

Gray picked up their fourth win by overcoming Jackson 8-3. The match was tight up to 3-3 at end six, after which Gray took steals of one in end seven, one in end eight and three in end nine.

That kept them ahead of the pack on W3 L3, which includes Jackson – and Fleming, who defeated Young 10-4 courtesy of two in end five, three in end seven and four in end nine.

Also on W3 L3 are Murray, who despite being without their usual skip, won their second game of the day against G Aitken, stealing one in end three, scoring two in end six and taking their one with hammer in end 10 to win 6-5.

***

Brewster remained top of the pile after reeling off their sixth successive win in the eighth men’s draw, beating Brydone 8-3 with two in end two and four in end four.

Murdoch moved to six wins by beating Combe 9-2 thanks to twos in ends one, three and five, and three in end seven.

Mouat joined Murdoch on W6 L2 – but only just: they led Hardie 4-1 after five ends but skip Bruce Mouat had to make a double takeout to prevent a killer three in end 10.

Hardie scored two, forcing an extra end, where Mouat claimed one to win 7-6… a second extra end loss of the day for Hardie.

Hardie now sit W5 L3, as do Bryce and Smith after Smith won their head-to-head clash. A nightmare eighth end for Bryce saw Smith steal three, winning the game 6-3.

Team MacDonald cannot make the playoffs but did pick up their third win, beating Macleod. MacDonald went 4-1 up, lost their lead, but then scored four in end seven to draw handshakes.

***

Tomorrow: the decisive final draws. At 8am the seventh and last women’s draw features G Aitken v K Aitken, Fleming v Gray, Jackson v Young and Muirhead v Murray.

Four wins should be enough for a tiebreaker spot at least, but three wins could also be enough for G Aitken and Young if other results go their way.

The ninth and final men’s draw is at (high) noon. The matches there are Brewster v Macleod, Bryce v Combe, Brydone v MacDonald, Hardie v Murdoch and Mouat v Smith.

Mouat and Murdoch need wins to avoid being dragged into¬†tiebreaker(s). Should they both win and Bryce beat Combe, they will be the top four. But should one/both of Hardie and Smith win, then things get really interesting…

Tiebreaker(s) – I can’t see there not being any at all – are scheduled for 6.30pm.

Get updates on the final day of round-robin action on the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter.

There will be CurlingGeek shot-by-shot coverage throughout the day, and as always you can get full linescores, team line-ups etc on the event page here.

#scc2016 day two: Muirhead and Murdoch lead the way

Team Brewster
Team Brewster take a time out; coach Mike Harris advises (photo: Tom Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

The first women’s games at the Scottish Curling Championships took place, with Team Muirhead winning twice.

Teams Gray and Jackson also won both of their matches, but the biggest test of their credentials comes tomorrow – both play Muirhead.

In the men’s competition, Team Murdoch continue to lead the way on four wins, but there are four teams – Brewster, Bryce, Hardie and Mouat – sitting on W3 L1.

***

The first women’s draw saw a few nervous moments for Team Muirhead as they let a 3-0 lead slip, Team Young stealing in ends four and five to lead 4-3.

But a steal for Muirhead in end seven tied it up at 5-5 and they scored three in end nine, before running Young out of stones to win 8-5.

Last year’s runners-up Team Fleming scored three in end one and four in end four to race into a 7-1 lead against Team K Aitken.

A steal of two in end seven effectively killed the game off, Aitken shaking hands after eight ends at 10-5.

Scottish Junior champions Team Jackson also scored 10, scoring three in end two then reeling off the steals – one in end three, four in end four, one in end five and one in end six as they beat Team G Aitken 10-2 in seven.

Team Gray, meanwhile, faced Team Murray, this season’s Asham U21 Slam winners. Gray scored three in end one but found themselves dragged back to 4-4 after five.

But from there it was Gray who kicked on, stealing two in end seven and one in end eight on their way to winning 8-5.

Skip Lauren Gray said: “The main thing is getting to grips with the ice and getting wins on the board.

“It’s great to have more teams this year, and those that have come up are very good junior teams.”

***

The third men’s draw saw both Team Bryce and Team Murdoch keep up their winning starts.

Bryce stole ones in ends four and seven in a game against Team Macleod that saw no more than one scored in any end, running out victors 5-2.

Murdoch, meanwhile, won the rematch of the 2015 championships final, beating Team MacDonald 7-3 courtesy of threes in ends one and eight – and handed MacDonald their third consecutive defeat.

Brewster & Smith
Brewster v Smith (photo: Tom Brydone)

Team Smith, however, couldn’t take their third win – beaten 6-3 by Team Brewster in a tight game that was blown open by a four for Brewster in end eight.

Tom Brewster said afterwards: “We just have to make sure we’re in the playoffs at the end of the week – that’s what it’s all about.

“We’ll probably lose some more, and win some more, so we just need to win more than we lose.”

In the other games, Team Mouat gained their second win by beating Team Brydone 7-2 courtesy of twos in ends three, four and six, while Team Hardie also picked up win number two after defeating Combe 10-4 with threes in ends one and two and two in end five.

***

In the second women’s draw, Muirhead were on fire against Fleming, the two teams who contested last year’s final.

They scored two in end two, stole one in end three, scored a huge four in end five and stole another one in end six to win 8-2.

Afterwards Eve Muirhead said: “We played OK today – in the second game we were right on with our line and weight.

“The ice is great – we just need to adapt to the speed, curl and temperature faster than our opponents this week.”

Joining Muirhead on two wins were Gray – who finished strongly with a five in end eight and steal of two in nine to beat G Aitken 8-4 – and Jackson.

Jackson roared into an 8-2 lead in end four only to see it cut to 8-7 by end seven… then scoring four in end eight to kill off a topsy-turvy encounter.

Skip Sophie Jackson said: “We had to pick it up after a couple of slack ends and come back.¬†We used our coping strategies and stuck together.

“I’m pleased with the team performances, building on our success from Juniors.”

In the fourth match, K Aitken and Young went to an extra end tied at 7-7 РYoung used hammer to win the game, hitting and sticking to take the game 8-7.

***

The fourth men’s draw saw Murdoch continue their relentless start to the competition, their steal of¬†two in end seven proving the difference in an otherwise tight match with Smith – won 6-4.

But there are now four teams on W3 L1 records – Brewster took their third win and handed Bryce their first loss with a four in end three and three in end six as they took it 8-3.

Also on three wins are Mouat, who meted out another defeat to MacDonald, 10-6, courtesy of twos in ends two, four and five and three in end eight.

And Hardie are quietly going about their business, notching a third victory with three in end three and two in eight en route to beating Macleod 7-3.

In the fifth match of the night, Brydone picked up their first win of the competition, letting slip a 5-2 lead but scoring one in end 10 to see off Combe 6-5.

***

Tomorrow sees four more draws – the women at 8am (inc. Jackson v Muirhead), men at noon (inc. Brewster v Mouat), women at 4pm (inc. Gray v Muirhead) and men at 8pm (inc. Bryce v Mouat).

If you’re not in Perth, you can follow the action via the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter pages, and there will be another liveblog like this one.

There will be more games covered shot-by-shot on CurlingGeek, and you can find linescores and other competition information on the RCCC page here.

 

#scc2016 day one: Team Murdoch leave it late

mdoch scc2016 day 1
Team Murdoch start with two wins from two. Photo: Royal Caledonian Curling Club

It went to an extra end as the clock ticked towards midnight, but Team Murdoch eventually saw off Team Mouat to sit on two wins at the end of day one of the Scottish Curling Championships.

Teams Bryce and Smith also won their opening two games, but it was a tough start for Team MacDonald in their title defence, losing twice.

There were just the two draws on the first day of #scc2016, both men’s, but still the viewing area at the Dewars Centre attracted a decent crowd.

The opening draw saw a clash between reigning Scottish champions Team MacDonald and Scotland’s representatives at the 2015 European Championships, Team Smith.

It was Smith who made the better start, stealing one in end one and forcing one from MacDonald in end two.

A draw for two and a lead of 3-1 followed, but they were let off the hook in end four when MacDonald’s draw for two was light and only narrowed the gap by one.

MacDonald’s last stone was light again in end five, allowing Smith to draw in for another two, and although MacDonald scored twos in ends six and nine, Smith took two of their own in end seven and stole one in eight on their way to winning 8-7.

Team Murdoch picked up a steal of one in end two versus Team Brydone, then blew it open with a steal of four in the next end.

Brydone scored two in end seven but two for Murdoch in eight saw the game conceded with Murdoch 8-3 up.

Team Combe hit and stuck instead of blanking end one against Brewster, and Brewster scored three in end three for a lead which they never relinquished.

They scored two in end six, stole one in end seven and ran Combe out of stones in 10 to win 7-4.

Team Mouat scored two in end two versus Team Macleod, then stole a single in end three, two in end four and two in end five to lead 7-0.

Although Macleod got two back in end six, the game was essentially gone and they shook hands in end eight – victory going to Mouat 8-3.

The tightest game of the opening draw was between Teams Bryce and Hardie. Bryce scored three in end two to lead 3-1, but Hardie levelled at 4-4 after five.

Hardie then stole one in end six, before Bryce scored one in end seven and stole one in end eight to tip the balance back their way.

After forcing Hardie to one in end nine, Bryce scored the one they needed in end 10 for a 7-6 triumph.

***

The second draw of the day brought together two form teams: Mouat and Murdoch.

Their match did not disappoint either, as the sides traded ones up to end four, then twos to end eight – every time Murdoch got their noses in front, Mouat levelled immediately.

Ones in ends nine and 10 meant an extra end was needed, and Mouat piled on the pressure, only for skip David Murdoch to execute a tough double takeout to win.

Afterwards, he said: “Absolutely delighted [to start with two wins]. It’s a tough field, and everyone’s still figuring out the ice.

“It wasn’t the best extra end we’ve ever played but I just needed the guys to give me a final shot. Bruce [Mouat] played a great last shot and I had to make a downweight double… it was nice to make that at the end.

“Ahead of day two we need to switch off, get some sleep and chill out. It’s a tough week, the games come thick and fast like the Worlds or Europeans, but there’s a good flow to it.”

If that game was topsy-turvy then that was nothing on Bryce v MacDonald. Bryce led 4-0 after four ends, but MacDonald scored five in end five and four in end seven to lead 9-5.

Yet Bryce scored two in end eight, stole three in end nine and forced MacDonald to one in end 10 – allowing them to win it in the extra end, 11-10.

Smith’s second win came against Brydone, scoring two in end three and stealing two in end eight en route to a 7-4 victory.

Brewster, by contrast, came unstuck against Hardie, trading twos and then ones through to end 10, where Hardie used hammer to score one and win the game 5-4.

And Macleod secured victory against Combe, scoring two in end five, three in end seven and two in end nine to prompt handshakes at 8-3.

***

The first women’s draw is from 8am tomorrow, with Team Muirhead kicking off against Team Young, Team Fleming facing Team K Aitken, Team Gray playing Team Murray and Team Jackson versus Team G Aitken.

That is followed by the third men’s draw at noon, the second women’s draw at 4pm and fourth men’s draw at 8pm.

Keep an eye on the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the day, as well as linescores and standings on the RCCC’s competition page here.