End of season round-up

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PODIUM: Scotland women won bronze at the World Senior Curling Championships. Pic: twitter.com/jlockhart65

It’s been a packed end to the season, with the good (Team Smith’s European Masters win, bronze for Scotland women at World Seniors) mixed with the bad (Scotland/GB missing out on Olympic Mixed Doubles).

Here’s a quick round-up of how the 2016-17 season has come to its conclusion.

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Firstly to St Gallen, where the European Masters involved three Scottish men’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).

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Vicky Wright, Alice Spence) were the sole Scots on the women’s side, but after two wins in the opening two matches versus Teams Schöpp (6-4) and Thompson (6-5) they lost their three remaining group matches to miss out on the final.

In the men’s event, it wasn’t a great tournament for Murdoch, as they only picked up one win from seven round robin games – 7-4 against Team Walstad.

Team Brewster did rather better, with wins against Murdoch (8-2), Pfister (5-3), Walstad (10-1) and McCormick (4-2) qualifying them for the 3v4 game versus McCormick, which the Scots won 4-2.

The best performance, though, came from Team Smith, who won four of their round robin matches – against Pfister (5-4), Murdoch (7-5), Brewster (7-3) and McCormick (8-5) – to edge by Brewster to make the final.

There they faced the ever-menacing Team Edin, and Smith finally got one over on the serial Slam-winning Swedes, as two in end four and one in end eight saw them pinch it 5-4.

***

The Champions Cup – for teams who have won major competitions during the season – took place in Calgary, Alberta, and involved three Scottish rinks – Teams Brewster and Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, David Reid, Duncan Menzies) on the men’s side, and Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) on the women’s.

Neither men’s team could progress from the round robin, with Brewster taking a win against Team Morozumi (9-3) but being beaten by Teams Laycock (5-4), McEwen (9-1) and Gushue (6-3).

Hardie, meanwhile, lost all four games – against Teams De Cruz (8-1), Carruthers (6-3), Jacobs (8-6) and Morris (6-3) – but this was undoubtedly a helpful experience for the team in a Slam environment.

The men’s title went the way of Team Jacobs, who overcame Team Koe 6-2 in the final.

Muirhead also missed out on the women’s playoffs – beating Flaxey (9-4) but losing to Pätz (7-2), Jones (7-6) and Wrana (6-2).

The women’s final was contested by Teams Homan and Hasselborg, with Homan scoring two in end eight to pinch it 5-4.

***

The World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Lethbridge, Canada, saw Scotland represented by Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat.

They swept the round robin, with victories over Norway (6-3), Bulgaria (10-3), Ireland (8-5), Wales (11-2), Serbia (11-0), Denmark (8-2) and Italy (8-4).

Also in Scotland’s group, Ireland (Alison Fyfe and Neil Fyfe) won four and lost three (beating Serbia 10-2, Denmark 7-3, Bulgaria 11-4 and Wales 11-2, but losing to Italy 5-4, Scotland and Norway 10-4), with Wales (Dawn Watson and Adrian Meikle) coming in on W2 L5 (winning against Serbia 11-3 and Denmark 9-7, but defeated by Norway 6-2, Scotland, Italy 9-8, Ireland and Bulgaria).

England (Anna Fowler and Ben Fowler) just missed out on qualifying from the round robin, finishing on a W4 L3 record (beating France 8-5, Kazakhstan 17-2, Turkey 10-5 and Germany 9-6, but losing to the USA 7-2, the Czech Republic 6-4 and Canada 7-6).

The quarter-finals saw Ireland face Korea, losing 6-3, while Scotland – despite winning their group – faced Canadians Joanne Courtney and Reid Carruthers, and they were beaten 8-3 after giving up four in end seven.

Now scrambling to qualify for the Olympics, Aitken and Mouat faced Sweden – and scored four in end four as they beat them 9-2 – while the Irish pair lost to Russia 7-5.

It was the Russians Anastasia Bryzgalova and Aleksandr Krushelnitckii up next for Scotland, and again Aitken/Mouat lost to a very strong opponent, 6-5, as Russia scored singles in ends one, three, four, six, seven and the extra to edge a tight match.

Scotland had to beat Italy next and hope. They did that, 7-5, but Norway’s win over Finland denied them a spot at Pyeongchang 2018, with just two points in it on the ranking system.

Sport is seldom ‘fair’, and Scotland had the misfortune to face Canada and Russia after a flawless round robin.

What would seem flawed is a qualification process that places so much emphasis on a couple of games at one event, over the hard work and consistent tournament success of a Scottish duo who have spent the last four years working towards an Olympic spot, and were clearly heartbroken to fall short.

Switzerland, who went unbeaten through the championship, beat Canada 6-5 in the final to win gold, with China taking silver.

***

Lethbridge also hosted the World Senior Curling Championships, with Scotland represented by Ian Drysdale, David McQueen, Ronald Wilson, Graham Lindsay and Andrew Hemming (alternate) in the men’s event.

They finished the round robin with a W3 L3 record, as they saw off Finland 6-3, England 4-2 and Russia 12-2, but were beaten by Canada (7-2), Wales (6-4) and New Zealand (5-2)).

That meant a tiebreaker against Wales (Adrian Meikle, Richard Pougher, Chris Wells, Gary Waddell, Alistair Reid (alternate)), who had also won three and lost three, and again the Welsh came out on top, 5-4 this time, to put the Scots out.

England men (Thomas Campbell, Philip Barton, Mike Spain, Alastair Fyfe) ended up on W1 L5, with Ireland men (Peter Wilson, Johnjo Kenny, Bill Gray, David Whyte, David Hume (alternate)) on W5 L2.

Wales beat Israel 8-6 to make the last eight, but there they succumbed 8-1 to Canada; Ireland, though, qualified for the quarter-finals with a 5-4 win over Denmark.

Canada proved too strong for the Irish in the semi-finals, winning 5-2, but the Irish did secure bronze with a 6-3 win over Germany in the 3v4 game, while Sweden pipped Canada to gold.

As for the women’s competition, Scotland (Jackie Lockhart, Christine Cannon, Isobel Hannen, Margaret Richardson, Janet Lindsay (alternate)) qualified from Group B with five wins (against the Czech Republic (9-2), Slovakia (15-1), Australia (9-1), Finland (7-6 after an extra end) and Switzerland (8-4)) and one loss (versus the USA (6-4)).

England women (Judith Dixon, Val Saville, Helen Forbes, Deborah Higgins) were W3 L4 for the event, with Ireland women (Carolyn Hibberd, Marie O’Kane, Louise Kerr, Clare McCormick) W1 L6.

Scotland, having finished second in their group to the USA, had to beat Russia to make the last four, which they did 10-0.

Their semi-final pitted them against Colleen Jones’ Canada, and it was the host country who emerged victorious with a two in end eight to win 5-3.

Canada took gold and Switzerland silver, and Scotland ensured they joined them on the podium by beating the USA 8-5 (scoring four in end five) in the bronze medal match.

Skip Lockhart said: “It feels really good to get a medal and to go back with something after not playing quite the ‘A’ game we wanted against Canada.

“We had to fight really hard for that. It’s been a tough week but every medal makes the season worthwhile and we’ve still got years to play in seniors, so…bring it on.”

Team Hardie come out on top in Aberdeen

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TROPHY TIME: Aberdeen International winners Team Hardie (pic: facebook.com/aberdeeninternationalcurling)

A busy weekend saw the start of the World Women’s Curling Championship, as well as events in Scotland, Europe and Canada.

Team Hardie were the standout success, winning the Aberdeen International event, while there was also bronze for Team Aitken/Mouat in their latest mixed doubles endeavour.

But first to Beijing, where Scotland women have had a rollercoaster start…

***

The 2017 World Women’s Curling Championship sees Scotland represented, once again, by Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate), Glenn Howard (coach)).

Two days in and, at time of writing, three games played – Scotland sit on a W2 L1 record.

They began against the USA, and after a three in end one, they were hauled back to 3-3 after four, only to answer with another three in end five.

But they then gave up five points over the next three ends, to trail 8-6, and were forced to one in the ninth.

But steals of one in end 10 and the extra end saw them snatch a 9-8 victory.

The outcome from their next match was less positive, as they were shocked by an inexperienced Italian team.

Diana Gaspari’s rink scored three in end seven and two in end nine, meaning the Scots needed three in end 10 to force an extra – an opportunity opened up but the shot was missed, so Italy won 7-6.

Scotland needed to bounce back quickly and did so, overcoming Team Sidorova of Russia, always a strong force at these championships.

Again the Scots started well with three in end one, and a steal of four in end four saw them lead 8-1.

Russia fought back, creeping up to only trail 8-5, but ones in ends eight and 10 got the job done for the Muirhead rink, who face Denmark and Sweden in Monday’s action.

The early pace-setters as of Sunday – Canada, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, all W3 Lo from the first two days.

***

Back in Scotland, and a Curling Champions Tour event – the Aberdeen International Curling Championship – had drawn a high quality field.

In a triple knockout format, the A-Road qualifiers were Team McEwen of Canada (defeating Team Stjerne (Denmark) 10-3 in the A-Road final) and the Scots of Team Murdoch (who overcame Team Ulsrud of Norway 7-6 to qualify).

Murdoch’s compatriots were having a tougher time of it, as it was Teams Deruelle (Canada) and Eskilsson (Sweden) who made the quarter-finals via the B-Road, meaning that Teams Brewster, Bryce, Craik, Hardie, Hutcheon, Mouat (minus their skip – more on him later), Smith and Whyte all ended up on the C-Road.

Of those, only Hardie and Whyte (thanks to a win over Ulsrud) made the C-Road finals, and while Hardie defeated Stjerne 4-3 to make the last eight, Whyte lost 10-5 to Team Schwaller of Switzerland.

Schwaller claimed another Scottish scalp on the Sunday, beating Murdoch 5-2 in their quarter-final, leaving Hardie – 7-2 winners over Deruelle – as the last Scots standing.

In the semi-finals they faced McEwen – serial Grand Slam champions and recently bronze medal winners at the Brier… not that any of that fazed Hardie, as they stole one in end one and two in end four, before adding three in end six to clinch it 7-3.

Hardie faced Team Liu of China in the final, and after the teams traded ones, it was the Scots who claimed two in end three, then forcing Liu to one in four and scoring another two in end five – which proved enough as the next two ends were blanked and they ran their opponents out of stones in the eighth to claim victory 5-2.

So congratulations Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, Duncan Menzies and David Reid, the team having had another good season – just missing out on playoffs at the Scottish Championships again, but proving they can mix it with the best by claiming another Scottish Curling Tour title.

***

There was more Scottish success overseas, as Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat took bronze at the Westbay Hungarian Mixed Doubles Cup.

They cruised through their group with four wins from four – beating Szekeres/Nagy 8-7 (after an extra end), Sykorova/Misun 9-0, Morand/Borini 14-4 and Florek/Herman 9-3.

Also competing in Budapest were Judith and Lee McCleary, who also won their opening four matches – overcoming Szabo/Foti 7-4, Komarova/Goryachev 5-2, Wiksten/Wiksten 9-0 and Pathy-Dencso/Szabo 8-7.

That meant both Scottish pairs were into the quarter-finals, but that was as far as McCleary/McCleary could go, as they gave up a four in end six to lose 7-4 to home rink Palancsa/Kiss.

Aitken/Mouat, though, made the last four by defeating Heldin/Sjoberg of Sweden 8-5, which was largely down to a score of five in end two.

Defeat to Komarova/Goryachev, 9-7, ended their hopes of the title, but while the Russians went on to win gold, Aitken/Mouat bounced back to defeat Szekeres/Nagy again, by a 7-3 scoreline this time, which secured bronze.

***

Finally, the latest Grand Slam of Curling event took place in the shape of the Elite 10 in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia.

The 10-team competition featured match play scoring – the game decided by the number of ends won by each team (full explanation here).

It came down to a final between Teams Jacobs and Morris, and it was the latter (Jim Cotter, John Morris, Tyrel Griffith, Rick Sawatsky) who claimed the Slam title with a 1-up triumph.

Scots dominate podium at Dutch Masters

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SECOND SPOT: Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken (pic: Tom J Brydone)

Scottish curlers filled out second and third place at the Dutch Masters Mixed Doubles this weekend, with Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat only just missing out on the top prize.

Three Scottish rinks competed at the Bernese Ladies Cup, but only Team Fleming made the playoffs – where they were beaten by eventual runners-up Team Tirinzoni.

And Team North America continued their domination of the Continental Cup, taking their fifth title in a row versus Team World.

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Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat, fresh from winning the Scottish Mixed Doubles Championship at the end of 2016, went into the Dutch Masters Mixed Doubles event as one of the favourites.

And they secured passage from Pool A of the round robin stages with a perfect record – winning against Molder/Lill of Estonia 10-3, Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky of Russia 8-6, Fowler/Fowler of England 8-3 and Turto/Turto of Finland 9-3.

That record was emulated by Judith and Lee McCleary, the runners-up at the Scottish Championships, who finished Pool C on W4 L0 after beating Walczak/Knebloch (Poland) 15-4, Fyfe/Fyfe (Ireland) 10-3, Norberg/Stenberg (Sweden) 10-7 and Kalocsai/Van Dorp (Hungary/Netherlands) 6-5.

The English team, Anna and Ben Fowler, and Irish, Alison and Neil Fyfe, both finished the group stage on W2 L2 records – both missed out on the playoffs, but the English pair did at least take third spot in their pool (the Fyfes were one of three rinks on W2 L2 in their group but placed fourth), meaning they were into the Consolation event.

There they took down Menard/Baker of Canada 8-5, before losing out to Kalocsai/Van Dorp in the Consolation final, beaten 9-6 after an extra end.

Back to the main event, and the quarter-finals, where Aitken/Mouat found themselves 3-1 down to Szekeres/Nagy of Hungary after four ends, only to explode with a six in end five – which meant that two successive steals to end the match were not enough for the Hungarians, as the Scots took it 7-6.

Again the McClearys matched their compatriots, reaching the semi-finals with a 7-3 victory over Palancsa/Kiss (Hungary), who were the winners of this competition in 2016, having scored four in end one and stolen singles in ends six and seven.

That meant a head-on collision between Scots, and again it was Aitken/Mouat who took the spoils – scoring two in end one, one in end two, three in end three and four in end five to wrap it up 10-1.

The McClearys had one last match, the third-place playoff against Norberg/Stenberg of Sweden, which they won 11-5, with fours in ends three and six.

The final brought Aitken/Mouat a rematch with Russian world champions Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitsky, and the Scots enjoyed an ideal start – three in end one.

But the Russians hit back hard, scoring four in end two and stealing singles in ends three and four to lead 6-3 at halfway.

It wasn’t over yet, as Aitken/Mouat scored ones in ends five, six and seven to tie it up 6-6 – but two (thanks to a fine runback double) in end eight for Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky gave them the match 8-6 and the title.

***

Scottish women’s teams were back in action following a few weeks off over Christmas, with three taking on a world class field at the Bernese Ladies Cup, a triple knockout tournament.

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) started with a big win over Team Mathis, 10-2, but were knocked down to the B-Road by Team Schöpp of Germany, beaten 8-7.

They bounced back well, cruising past Team Kauste 10-2, and then beating Team Nielsen 7-3, but a loss to European gold medallists Team Moiseeva, 5-4, put them one defeat away from elimination.

Muirhead kept themselves alive on the C-Road by overcoming Schöpp at the second time of asking, 3-2, but a 7-2 loss against Team Sigfridsson in the C-Road final knocked them out.

Team Smith (Hazel Smith, Sarah Reid, Claire Hamilton, Kerry Clark) opened by edging Team Hegner 8-7, but there followed two straight defeats – against Team Wang 10-1 and Team Koana 5-4.

They kept themselves alive by overcoming Kauste 6-2, but Koana beat them again (7-5 this time), and they then lost 9-2 to Nielsen in the Consolation Cup to exit the event, which Nielsen went on to win.

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) began their competition by defeating Team Keiser 6-5, then saw off Team Babezat 5-4, before defeat in the A-Road semi-final to Team Tirinzoni, 8-6.

They lost again on the B-Road, 7-2 to Moiseeva, but won 5-4 against Team Jentsch and then scored two in end eight to edge Team Christensen 7-6 – thus making the playoffs!

The quarter-finals proved to be Fleming’s limit, however, as they met the in-form Tirinzoni and lost out 7-3.

That shouldn’t take away the added level of consistency we’re seeing from Fleming this season compared to the last couple of years, as they continue to narrow the gap at the top of the Scottish women’s game.

The final was contested by two Swiss rinks, Tirinzoni and Pätz, and it was the latter who took the title following a 4-3 victory.

***

Finally, the Continental Cup – the Ryder Cup-style tournament between Teams North America and World – was held in Las Vegas, but for once there was no Scottish involvement.

Unlike the most recent Ryder Cup, there was no reversal of fortunes for the most dominant side in recent years – North America winning their fifth in a row.

The teams were level at the end of the first day, on 4.5 points apiece, but from there North America steadily pulled away – eventually winning 37-23.

So congratulations to the winners – Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing, Ben Hebert, Heath McCormick, Chris Plys, Korey Dropkin, Tom Howell, Reid Carruthers, Braeden Moskowy, Derek Samagalski, Colin Hodgson, Chelsea Carey, Amy Nixon, Jocelyn Peterman, Laine Peters, Jamie Sinclair, Alex Carlson, Vicky Persinger, Monica Walker, Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen.

Aitken and Mouat win fourth Scottish mixed doubles title

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Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken, Scottish champions (photo: facebook.com/royalcaledoniancurlingclub)

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat rule the roost in Scottish mixed doubles curling once again, retaining their national title and securing their fourth in all.

They came out on top after a final with Judith and Lee McCleary where they stole their way to victory in Braehead.

Across the Atlantic, Teams Muirhead and Murdoch took part in the GSOC National, but unfortunately neither managed to make the playoffs.

***

Eight pairs took part in the Scottish Curling Mixed Doubles Championship, battling it out for the national title and a spot at the next World Mixed Doubles Championship in Canada.

Sophie Jackson and Ross Whyte had a bumpy start to the competition, beaten 8-1 by Judith and Lee McCleary, but from there they reeled off six straight wins, including defeating reigning champions Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat 7-6 after an extra end.

Joining Jackson/Whyte at the top of the round robin standings on W6 L1 were Aitken/Mouat and McCleary/McCleary, the former winning their head-to-head clash 6-5, also after an extra end.

Aitken/Mouat’s draw shot saw them placed top, so in the semi-finals they would face the winner of the tiebreaker between Karina Aitken/David Aitken and Sarah Reid/Ross Paterson, who both finished the round robin on W3 L4 records.

Aitken/Aitken won the tiebreaker 10-7 but were no match for Aitken/Mouat in their family affair semi-final (Gina’s mother Morna standing in for the unwell Karina), the holders scoring three in end one and stealing twos in ends two and three for a rapid 7-0 lead.

There was a four for Aitken/Aitken in end four, but Aitken/Mouat hit back with a four of their own in the fifth, and a further steal of one wrapped up the game 12-4.

In the other last four match, McCleary/McCleary also got off to a fast start, scoring two in the first end before stealing one in end two and two in end three.

Jackson/Whyte scored two in end four but a four for the McClearys in end five meant that, despite two in end six and one in the seventh for the younger pair, it was they who won out 9-5.

And so the final pitted Scotland’s most established mixed doubles pairings against one another, being regulars on the Curling Champions Tour mixed doubles circuit.

McCleary/McCleary forced Aitken/Mouat to one in the first end, but from there the latter rode the steal train to victory.

After a stolen single in end two, Aitken/Mouat added a further two to their tally when Lee McCleary’s last came up light – and another couple of fine draws claimed another steal of one for 5-0 at halfway.

McCleary/McCleary missed a difficult double takeout opportunity in end five, giving up another steal of one, before more well-placed stones from Aitken/Mouat drew further steals in ends six and seven, handshakes offered at 8-0.

Gina Aitken told British Curling: “We got stronger towards the end of the week, we have played a lot of mixed doubles this year leading up to this national title, so whereas other teams are having to shake off the dust and get into mixed doubles format, we were just ready for it.

“Now this is an Olympic discipline it is interesting to see the level of interest increasing and curlers taking this more seriously as there is more at stake.

“We are really excited that we have qualified to represent Scotland again at the world championships in Canada next April. Playing in Canada is just great.

“Our main goal is to qualify GB for the Olympics and if we peak at the right time hopefully we can bring back a medal.”

Aitken and Mouat will fly the Scottish flag in Lethbridge, Canada, at next year’s World Mixed Curling Championships, on April 22-29.

Joining them there will be Anna and Ben Fowler, the siblings once again qualifying to represent England on the international stage.

***

The latest Grand Slam of Curling event, the National, took place in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and involved two Scottish rinks.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) gave up twos in ends two and five as they lost their opening pool stage match 6-1 to Team De Cruz of Switzerland.

Further losses to Teams Epping (5-3), Morris (7-6, losing a two in end eight) and Koe (6-4) saw them exit the competition without scoring a victory.

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) fared little better, beginning with defeat against Team Sidorova of Russia, losing 6-5 having given up three in end four.

The Scots hit back in style, scoring three in end three and two in end four as they overcame Team Rocque 8-3, but losses against Teams Einarson (5-3) and Tirinzoni (6-3) sealed their fate.

The men’s semi-finals saw Team Carruthers overwhelm Team Edin 7-0 and Team Jacobs defeat Team Gushue (their skip Brad back to full fitness) 5-3.

The final then ended in triumph for Jacobs in their hometown, stealing singles in ends six and eight to beat Carruthers 4-2.

In the last four of the women’s section, Einarson won out 9-6 against Team Feltscher, while Tirinzoni edged McCarville 6-5.

And Einarson made it a Canadian double (non-Canadian teams have been doing so well at Grand Slams this season that the fact is noteworthy!) with an 5-3 victory over Tirinzoni in the final, stealing one in end five and scoring two in the seventh for their first career Slam title.

***

Finally, the Skill Awards Challenge took place in Perth, with 16 teams made up of young curlers who have all achieved an RCCC Skill Award playing four-end matches.

Team Stranraer (Niall Ryder, Harry Glasgow, Finlay Alldred, Rory Dodds) won the high road final 3-2 against Perth YC 1 – see all linescores here.

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.

Team Jackson victorious in Prague

jackson-prague
EJCT Prague Junior Cup winners, Team Jackson (photo: facebook.com/CurlingChampionsTour)

Team Jackson won the women’s title at the EJCT Prague Junior Cup, defeating Team Gauchat of Switzerland in the final.

Three Scottish teams took part in the first Grand Slam of Curling event of the season, the Masters, with Team Murdoch performing best in making it to the quarter-finals.

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat also posted a quarter-final finish, theirs coming at the Geising Mixed Doubles, while the Province Championship and U17 Slam at Lanarkshire took place back in Scotland.

***

Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) travelled to the Czech Republic for the EJCT Prague Junior Cup.

They kicked off their pool stage with a 9-2 win over Team Wuest of Switzerland, scoring two in end four and five, and three in end six.

Team Hoehne of Germany were up next, and the Scots scored two in end two only for the Germans to hit back straight away with three and head into the extra end with hammer. Jackson, however, stole one for the 5-4 victory.

Threes in ends one and two pointed them towards an 8-2 win over Team Cerne of Slovenia, and despite a 6-5 loss to Team Joo (Hungary) they were safely into the semi-finals.

There Jackson met Team Fomm of Germany, and gave up steals in ends four and five to fall 4-1 behind. But two in end six and a steal of three in end seven turned the match on its head, Jackson winning 6-4.

Team Gauchat of Switzerland were their opponents in the final, but it was the Scots who pulled through 7-4 to take the cup!

Skip Sophie Jackson said: “We are really happy with our result this weekend as we had a few tough games and stuck together to grind out the wins.

“It’s great to see our hard work from pre-season paying off with regards to results so far this season.”

***

Three Scottish teams were in Okotoks, Alberta, for the WFG Masters, the opening Grand Slam of Curling tournament of the 2016-17 season.

Teams Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were drawn in the same pool and they opened against each other.

Murdoch began with three in end one, forced Smith to one and then added a huge four in end three for an almost unassailable 7-1 lead – and so it proved, Smith conceding at 9-2.

Smith, in their first Grand Slam at the elite level (they played in tier 2 of the Tour Challenge last season), claimed a win in their next match – two in end four and a steal of one in end seven seeing them past Team Carruthers 5-3 – but two further losses (6-5 to Team McEwen and 7-5 to Team Morris) saw them exit with a W1 L3 record.

Murdoch edged a tight battle with Morris (5-4) for their second win of the competition, but defeats to Carruthers (5-1) and McEwen (6-5) tipped them into a tiebreaker with Team Koe, the reigning world champions.

A good time for your skip to curl at 100 per cent then – and that’s just what David Murdoch did, as his rink scored two in end three, then three in end five, and stole one in end six, as Koe were beaten 7-3.

The quarter-finals pitted them against the on-song Team Laycock, and this time the Scots fell short, Laycock taking two in end four and stealing one in the fifth in winning 5-3.

The men’s final was contested by Teams Edin and Jacobs. Jacobs led 4-2 into end eight, but the Swedes scored two to force an extra – where they stole one to win the match 5-4, taking their first Grand Slam title and – remarkably – the first men’s Grand Slam won by a non-Canadian team!

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray), fresh from qualifying for the European Championships and welcoming back Sloan at third, flew the Scottish flag in the women’s event.

First up they faced Team Kim of Korea – they stole two in end one but then gave up five unanswered points in the following four ends, the Koreans eventually winning 6-5.

They then suffered another 6-5 defeat, this time going toe-to-toe with Team Pätz of Switzerland but giving up a steal in end eight, before a first win came against Team Rocque – three in end one, four in end four and three in end six giving them a 10-2 victory.

That set up a must-win match with the reigning Masters champions, Team Homan. Homan took the victory though, 7-5, and Muirhead dropped out on W1 L3.

Despite four of the quarter-finalists being international teams, it was an all-Canadian – indeed an all-Ontario – final between Teams Flaxey and Homan.

Flaxey, having made the playoffs via a tiebreaker, shocked Homan with a four in end five pivotal in their 6-3 victory. Like Edin, this was Flaxey’s first GSOC title.

As an aside, it is very disappointing to see Sportsnet having chosen to end non-Canadian subscriptions to live Grand Slam matches – it means that fans of the international teams playing the tournaments cannot watch them at home, and it will hardly help to grow the sport worldwide.

I hope that curling fans’ passionate pleas for the service’s return will be rewarded.

***

Back in Europe, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat – who had finished runners-up at the Austrian Mixed Doubles the week before – took part in the CCT Geising Mixed Doubles.

The Scottish pair cruised through the group stage, with wins over Walczak/Knebloch of Poland (10-5), Belarussians Petrova/Petrov (10-3), Poles Szeliga-Frynia/Frynia (8-4) and Kobler/Hess of Switzerland (8-2).

The quarter-finals saw them face Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky of Russia, who have real pedigree this season – having come third at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles and then helped Russia to gold at the World Mixed Championship.

The Russians stole in ends two, three and four to lead 3-0, before Aitken/Mouat got on the board with two in end five. The Russian pair scored four in end six though, and stole another one in the seventh end for an 8-2 win.

And it was Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky who won the title, beating Hajkova/Paul of the Czech Republic 8-5 in the final.

***

Lanarkshire Ice Rink hosted the second Asham Under 17 Slam of the season, with 24 teams involved.

The rinks being divided into six sections, the pool stage delivered two high road and two low road quarter-finals, all the knockout matches played on the Sunday.

In the high road quarters, Team Craik scored two in end one and three in end four in beating Team Gallacher 6-4, while Team Haswell cruised past Team Hair 6-1.

Haswell won again in the semis, scoring two in end four and stealing one in the sixth end for a 4-3 victory over Team Davie, while Team Kinnear overpowered Craik 7-0.

The high road final saw Haswell take a 3-0 lead after two ends, but Kinnear roared back with three in the third end, then steals of one, two and one in the next three ends.

That secured Kinnear (Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean and Matthew McKenzie) a 7-3 victory and their second U17 Slam title of the season.

Third spot went to Craik, courtesy of a 3-1 win over Davie, while Henderson defeated Lyon 7-6 after an extra end in the low road final.

Across in Greenacres, 28 teams took part in the Scottish Province Championship.

A pool stage determined which rinks would make the quarter-finals. There, North Eastern defeated Border 5-4, Central beat Cupar 7-4, Renfrewshire 12th edged Galloway 5-4 and Ayrshire 1 saw off Moray 7-4.

Come the semi-finals, Renfrewshire 12th overcame Ayrshire 1 5-3 thanks to two in end five and a steal of one in eight, and Central won a ding-dong battle with North Eastern 8-7 – after the rinks had traded fours in ends two and three, Central scored two in end four and stole singles in ends five and six, then just about held on for the victory.

Renfrewshire 12th (Eric Richardson, Doug Kerr, Fraser Davidson, Margaret Richardson) came through as champions, defeating Central 7-6 in the high road final, scoring two in end three, three in end five and their one with hammer in end eight.

Stirlingshire won the low road final, 9-2 against North & South Esk.