Bryce and Mouat get Scots off to a flier

Mouat win Oakville Tankard
Team Mouat, 2017 Stu Sells Oakville Tankard winners. Pic: twitter.com/DMurdoch17

That didn’t take long, did it? One week, two events, two Scottish wins in World Curling Tour events.

We’re barely into September, but a slightly altered Team Bryce and a rather more different Team Mouat have already secured their first titles, in Tallinn and Oakville, respectively.

With our first Grand Slam of the season just around the corner, here’s hoping that Scottish curling can carry this initial form further into the season.

Bryce rise to the challenge

While four Scottish teams headed west to Canada, Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle) went east to Estonia, for the Tallinn Challenger.

They cruised through the round robin stage, finishing with four wins (against Teams Truksans, Lill, Svensgaard and Jungen) and no defeats.

They faced Team Eremin (Russia) in the last four, and a 7-3 win put them into the final against Team Gulbis of Latvia.

Again Bryce were just too strong for their opponents, scoring three in end three and stealing two in the fourth on their way to a 7-2 victory and the Tallinn Challenger title.

Skip Cameron Bryce told British Curling: “The whole team played really well, although we are still learning with our change of line-up for the season.”

The team now return to the new National Curling Academy, to prepare for the Braehead Open (September 22-24).

Mouat takes Tankard triumph

Teams Brewster, Drummond, Mouat and Smith ensured Scotland was well represented at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard in Ontario, but it was Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) who finished top of the pile.

I said in my season preview that I was excited to see what these boys could do on tour this season… it looks like I have my answer already.

Things were not so rosy for Team Drummond, though, as they lost to Mouat, McCormick and Deruelle to bow out early.

It’s early days for this rink, certainly, but they will be hoping for more at next week’s GSOC Tour Challenge (Tier 2).

Team Brewster have also rung the changes, and they had something of a rollercoaster in Oakville – a defeat to Fournier to drop onto the B-Road, wins over Corbett and Kim, a loss to Clark, victory over Stjerne, and finally a defeat to McCormick to end their involvement.

Team Smith, by contrast, have kept the same roster (only adding Glen Muirhead as alternate ahead of the Olympics), and they made the quarter-finals in Oakville.

Not that it was a smooth journey. Beaten by Kim first up, they then saw off Zou and Horgan, lost to Simmons to land on the C-Road, but then overcame Fournier and Gunnlaugson to make the playoffs.

Those quarter-finals pitted them against Mouat, who had sailed into the last eight thanks to four straight wins – against Ainsley, Drummond, Horgan and Clark.

Mouat dominated the all-Scottish meeting, taking three in end one, then a steal, and then twos in ends four and six to win it 8-3.

Mouat’s semi-final was tighter, but one in end eight was enough to see off Horgan, setting up a final against Kim of Korea.

The Korean rink scored three in end four to lead 3-1, but twos in ends five and seven, plus a steal in the eighth, gave Mouat a 6-4 victory – making it W7 L0 at the event.

For this team to have gelled this quickly is highly impressive, especially given the quality of the other teams on show.

So that’s $8,000 in the bank for Mouat already; their next event is the Oakville OCT Fall Classic (alongside Brewster) – can they maintain their hot streak?

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Teams Bryce and Jackson excel at World Juniors

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SILVER: Cate Brewster, Laura Barr, Sophie Sinclair, Mili Smith, Naomi Brown and Sophie Jackson. Pic: twitter.com/CurlTeamJackson

Team Bryce and Jackson both performed strongly in Korea at the World Junior Curling Championships, Sophie Jackson’s rink winning silver in the women’s section and Cameron Bryce’s men finishing fourth in the venue for the forthcoming Winter Olympics.

***

Scotland women (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair, Laura Barr (alternate), Cate Brewster (coach)) enjoyed a huge turnaround from the last World Juniors, when they were relegated to the B-Division, but having won promotion they did superbly.

They cruised through the round robin with a W7 L2 record, starting with four consecutive victories – versus Korea (7-6, stealing one in end 10), Hungary (8-7), Turkey (10-5) and Sweden (6-5, stealing two in the 10th end).

Team Jackson then lost 8-7 to Switzerland, but bounced back with three more wins, against Japan (9-7), the USA (7-2) and Canada (8-5, scoring four in end four).

Their last round robin match brought an 8-7 loss to Russia after an extra end, but they had done enough to make the 1v2 page playoff.

There they were beaten 9-6 by Sweden, having given up a steal of three in end three, but they secured their spot in the final, guaranteeing a medal, with a emphatic victory against Canada.

The Scots got off to an ideal start, scoring three in end one, and added two in the third end, stole four in the fourth, three in the fifth and one in the sixth, for a 13-2 win after eight ends.

Skip Sophie Jackson said: “I think the fire was sparked in us. We were so ready for that game and we wanted to make the final so bad after last night’s loss.

“We were just really ready and really pumped for that. This takes the pressure off a wee bit, but we still want that gold so bad.”

The final brought a third meeting with Sweden, the sides having won once and lost once against each other already in Gangneung.

Isabella Wranaa’s Swedes took the spoils this time, as although Scotland scored three in end four to lead 4-3, Sweden hit back by taking a three of their own in end five, stealing two in the sixth end and adding another two in the eighth for a 10-7 win and the gold medals.

Scotland could still be delighted with claiming silver in a tough competition; Canada took bronze.

Jackson said: “I’m a bit gutted, but we’ve had a really good week.

“I’m speechless really, we’ve done way better than we expected, so we’re still happy.

“I’m so proud of my team, we’ve done so much this season.”

***

It was a tougher route to the playoffs for Scotland men (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw, Ross Whyte (alternate), Colin Morrison (coach)), who lost their opening two matches – 7-6 to the USA after an extra end (having been 6-2 down), and 8-7 to Norway (having been 6-1 down).

But they pulled out four successive wins to get back in contention – beating Sweden 8-6, Switzerland 8-7 (after an extra end), China 8-3 and Italy 7-5.

They went down 8-7 to hosts Korea (another extra end loss), which meant they had to win their final two round robin games to clinch a playoff spot.

That they did, overcoming Turkey 7-4 and Canada 9-8 (taking their one with hammer in an extra end).

They won the 3v4 game 8-7 against Norway, scoring two in end 10 and then stealing one in the extra end, but they came unstuck against Ki Jeong Lee’s Korea in the semi-final.

The host nation, who went on to beat the USA in the final to win gold, beat the Scots 11-4 courtesy of three in end one, two in end three, three in the sixth end and two in the eighth.

That left Scotland facing Norway (again!) for bronze, and here they fell short – as the Norwegians went 7-0 ahead courtesy of steals in the first three ends, and eventually won out 10-3 in eight ends.

***

 

As well as the Scottish Championships, plenty of other national championships have been taking place this week, including the English Championships – which were won by Team Woolston (men’s) and Team Farnell (women’s).

In Canada, of course, we had the national women’s championship, the Scotties, which witnessed fierce competition between Teams Englot (Manitoba) and Homan (Ontario).

Englot won both the round robin encounter and the 1v2 page playoff game, but when it came to the final, it was Rachel Homan’s rink who won a see-saw affair 8-6, gaining the national title and securing a trip to face Team Muirhead and co at Worlds in Beijing.

 

Bryce and Jackson win Scottish Juniors

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Scottish Junior men’s champions Team Bryce (photo: facebook.com/CurlingTeamBryce)

Teams Bryce and Jackson will represent Scotland at the World Junior Curling Championships next month after winning the national titles in Aberdeen.

There was also success this weekend for Team Muirhead, who claimed a home victory at the Glynhill Ladies International, a Curling Champions Tour event in Braehead.

And Team Smith made the final at the German Masters in Hamburg, finishing as runners-up to Team Walstad of Norway.

***

The Scottish Curling Junior Championship, hosted by Curl Aberdeen, saw Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) top the men’s round robin with seven wins from seven.

They defeated Teams McNay (8-2), Cormack (10-2), Whyte (7-5), Joiner (10-2), Carson (5-3), Craik (6-3) and Baird (7-3).

Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean) finished second in the section on W6 L1, ahead of Teams Baird (David Baird, Fraser Kingan, Robin McCall, Gavin Barr) and McNay (Cameron McNay, James Baird, Fin Campbell, Angus Bryce) on W4 L3, who had to play a tiebreaker – won 8-6 by McNay after a steal of two in end 10.

On the women’s side, it was Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair), who went undefeated, with round robin victories against Teams Farmer (7-6), Aitken (14-5), MacDonald (8-4), Dandie (9-6), Keen (12-1) and Davie (9-4).

Behind them came Teams Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Annabel Skuse, Emma Barr) and Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr), both on W4 L2 records.

In the 1v2 page playoff games, Bryce scored twos in ends seven and nine to beat Whyte 7-5, while Jackson roared into a 7-2 lead after five ends in overcoming Davie 8-6.

Whyte earned their third crack at Bryce by winning the men’s semi-final 7-4 against McNay, but it was Aitken who claimed the women’s match – defeating Davie 8-3.

The finals were both tight affairs. Bryce led Whyte 6-3 after five ends but their opponents forced the issue right to the end, Bryce having to take one in end 10 to win 9-7 and clinch the title.

The women’s final was even closer, as Aitken and Jackson traded singles up to 2-2 after six ends; Aitken then stole in end seven, but Jackson scored two in end nine to lead.

One from Aitken in end 10 forced an extra end, where Jackson scored one to take it 5-4 and claim a place at the World Juniors that they had qualified Scotland for this month.

Jackson’s third Naomi Brown said: “After such a nip and tuck game and following all the hard work that went into the World Bs this is probably the best feeling ever after this Scottish final.

“For a new team we have achieved such a lot together; I didn’t even know Mili at the start of the season and we have all gelled so well and held it together and kept the focus.

“I am really proud of all of my team mates and our coach Cate (Brewster) who is so much part of our team and our results today, it has made all of the hard work worthwhile.”

Bryce and Jackson will fly the Saltire in Gangneung, Korea, between February 16-26.

***

The Glynhill Ladies International returned to Braehead for its 10th edition, with four Scottish teams among the 24-strong field.

The teams were divided into four sections, and Section A saw Teams Kubeskova (Czech Republic) and Wang (China) qualify – Team Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday and Rachel Hannen) dropped short despite wins over Teams Tirinzoni (6-5) and Nielsen (7-3).

In Section B it was Teams Pätz and Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) who progressed, Muirhead having won against Kauste (8-4), Sveliga-Frynia (7-2), Wrana (6-3) and Pätz (9-3), and lost to Barbezat (4-1).

Section C saw Team Feltscher join Swiss compatriots Pätz in the last eight, but Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Nancy Smith (super sub)) just missed out after a 9-7 loss to Team Jentsch meant the Germans went through.

Fleming were then beaten 7-3 by Team Moiseeva in the Consolation competition semi-finals, Moiseeva finishing runner-up to Barbezat in that part of the event.

And Section D was topped by Team Sigfridsson of Sweden and Team Hegner of Switzerland – with Team Smith (Hazel Smith, Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie, Claire Hamilton) going out on a W2 L3 record.

Muirhead faced Feltscher in the last eight and scored twos in ends three, four and seven to overcome the Swiss 8-3.

The semi-finals pitted them against Hegner, and this match was won 7-5, the Scots stealing two in end three and scoring three in end six.

And they faced Swiss opposition once again in the final, in the form of Pätz.

Muirhead scored twos in ends two and four to lead 4-3 at halfway, before steals of three in end five and one in end six handed them the win 8-3 and their first Glynhill title.

Skip Eve Muirhead told British Curling: “Alina [Pätz] won last week in Switzerland when we didn’t have such a good week, so for us to bounce back from that after a lot of good chats with our coaches and all our support staff, we had a few key things to work on and to focus on and I think we did that really well.

“To get a Scottish winner’s always nice, and there was a lot of support in here. I was really impressed with the numbers that came along.”

***

There were also four Scottish rinks involved in the German Masters in Hamburg, and while Teams Brewster and Murdoch went out early on W1 L2 records, there was more success for Teams Mouat and Smith.

Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were in Pool B, and won three straight matches – versus Teams Brunner (6-4), Rui Liu (7-2) and Retornaz (7-4).

Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon), in Pool E, lost their opener 6-3 to Team Walstad of Norway, but hit back by defeating Teams Wunderer (8-4) and Baumann (7-5).

Smith, having topped their group, had two chances to qualify for the quarter-finals and after losing the first 5-4 to Walstad after an extra end, they won the second 7-4 against Team Bottcher of Canada.

Mouat joined them in the quarter-finals after pipping the colourful trouser enthusiasts of Norway, Team Ulsrud, 6-5.

In the last eight, Smith scored four in end four in beating the Swiss De Cruz rink 6-4, but Mouat gave up a four in end six versus Walstad to lose 8-3 and exit the competition.

Come the semi-finals, Smith faced Team Timofeev of Russia, and having scored two in end two, they took their ones when they needed to, winning 4-2.

That set up a final with Walstad, the Norwegians having been something of a nemesis so far for the Scottish rinks.

And so it proved again. Walstad stole one in end four, but Smith stole in end six to level it up at 3-3.

But a three for the Norwegians in end seven proved the game-winner, as they took the title 6-3 – having won every game played in Hamburg – with Smith as worthy runners-up.

2016-17 curling half season review

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Braehead bronze: Team Muirhead with their European Championship medals (photo: twitter.com/Team_Muirhead)

As 2017 looms large, it’s time for The Roaring Game Blog to look back on the first half of the curling season.

There was plenty going on – although thankfully #Broomgate controversy has vanished from the spotlight, following the World Curling Federation’s sweeping summit and new regulations.

That means the focus has been on the ice, with Scottish teams more than holding their own as non-Canadian teams draw closer to the likes of Gushue, Homan and Koe.

Here are some of the highlights…

***

BRAEHEAD: Curling came home, as Braehead hosted the 2016 European Championships… which ended up being pretty similar to the 2015 Championships.

Just as in Esbjerg 12 months previously, Sweden won men’s gold (more on Team Edin later), Russia won women’s gold, Scotland men fell short of the playoffs, and Scotland women medalled again.

Team Brewster defeated all of the eventual men’s medallists (Sweden, Norway and Switzerland) in the round robin but finished in sixth place – missing the playoffs but qualifying Scotland for the 2017 World Men’s Curling Championships.

Team Muirhead cruised through the round robin, winning nine from nine, but had one bad game – against eventual winners Team Moiseeva of Russia – and had to settle for bronze… skip Eve Muirhead’s seventh consecutive European medal, a remarkable run of consistency.

In the B-Division, England’s men and women, and Wales men, all won more than they lost – but none made the playoffs, the English women particularly unlucky, with three of their defeats coming after an extra end.

***

KINGS OF SWEDEN: Team Edin have been the outstanding team in the world this year, the Swedes winning their third consecutive European gold, as well as claiming victory at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, Swiss Cup Basel, Champery Masters and the first two Grand Slam of Curling events of the season – the Masters and Tour Challenge.

No team has perfected the art of starting a tournament slowly and finishing it like a steam train quite like Niklas Edin’s rink, and they look more than capable of continuing their amazing title-winning form into 2017.

***

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GREAT SCOTS: Team Smith (photo: Tom J Brydone/British Curling)

THE RIVALS PART I: Team Smith have enjoyed an outstanding first half of the season, despite being beaten to European qualification by Team Brewster, and it could have been even better had they not repeatedly run into the red-hot Team Edin.

Kyle Smith’s quartet won the Oakville OCT Fall Classic to kick-start their season, before making the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard semi-finals (beaten by Edin) and Swiss Cup Basel semis (beaten by Edin).

They then reached their first ever Grand Slam final, at the Tour Challenge in Cranbrook, where they finished as runners-up… to Edin.

So far, so Djokovic v Murray in tennis slam finals – but Smith’s form shows they’re a match for anyone in the world, which they continued to demonstrate by taking the Dumfries Challenger title just before Christmas to sit 13th in the World Curling Tour Order of Merit rankings.

***

FLEMING TAKE FLIGHT: Just like their 2013 World University Games comrades Team Smith, this half season has been a real breakthrough for Team Fleming.

Hannah Fleming’s rink, having added Jen Dodds and Vicky Wright to the line-up, have pulled off some remarkable victories over top teams and posted a series of runners-up finishes.

The Women’s Masters Basel saw them reach the semi-finals, and they upped that result by reaching finals at the Stockholm Ladies Cup, Red Deer Curling Classic and Qinghai China International, only to fall short of the top prize each time.

A first title of the season may still elude them, but there’s no doubt they’re on the up – to 27th in the women’s Order of Merit.

***

DIFFERENT NAMES, SAME RESULTS: Team Fleming are still chasing the top Scots though – Team Muirhead have added Lauren Gray at lead and Glenn Howard as coach, while fielding Kelly Schafer at third for the first few months of the season while Anna Sloan recovered from injury, but they have looked no less impressive.

They were the best women’s team in Braehead (and so were unlucky to ‘only’ win bronze), while also coming in as runners-up at the HDF Insurance Shoot-Out and Colonial Square Ladies Classic.

After those second-placed finishes, they finally got to the top spot of the podium by winning the Women’s Masters Basel – and ended 2016 by coming third at the Karuizawa International.

The 2018 Winter Olympics remain the ultimate goal for these ladies, and the indications are that they’re gelling with plenty of time to spare.

***

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ON THE UP: Team Bryce (photo: facebook.com/CurlingTeamBryce)

NICE TO SEE YOU, TO SEE YOU BRYCE: Team Murdoch were runners-up at the Swiss Cup Basel and Karuizawa International, Team Brewster won the latter, but the most successful Scottish men’s side aside from Team Smith have been Team Bryce.

With a rejigged line-up of their own, they’ve had a fantastic first half to the season – winning the EJCT Braehead Junior International, Greenacres Junior Masters (U21 Slam), Kinross Junior Classic (U21 Slam) and EJCT Livechannel Cup.

Add to that third place at the EJCT Thun event and second at the Dumfries Challenger (pushing Smith all the way in the final), and it’s no surprise to see them ranked as Europe’s second best junior team.

They’re also favourites to win next year’s Scottish Juniors to qualify for Worlds.

***

THE RIVALS PART II: Team Bryce’s superb form has irked one team more than most: Team Whyte, who just haven’t quite managed to get the best of them yet.

Bryce won their head-to-heads in the Braehead Junior International final, Greenacres Junior Masters final, Kinross Junior Classic final and EJCT Thun third-place playoff.

Ross Whyte’s boys have had a fine season themselves, mind you – runners-up at the Dumfries Open and winners of the Inverness Junior International and Lockerbie Junior International U21 Slams.

And 3/4 of their line-up, skipped by Callum Kinnear, have been tearing it up in the U17 Slams – victors at the Stevenson Trophy, Lanarkshire Slam and Baljaffray Trophy.

***

EUROPE’S BEST: Team Jackson are first in the EJCT women’s rankings after enjoying their own excellent half season.

It’s been a very busy one for Sophie Jackson and co, but their highlights include winning the women’s titles at the EJCT Braehead Junior International, Greenacres Junior Masters and EJCT Prague Junior Cup, as well as placing second in the Braehead Open and Dumfries Challenger events.

They also saw off Team Karina Aitken to qualify for next week’s World Junior-B Championships, where their aim is clear: get Scotland back up to the top table after relegation last year.

***

QUEENS OF SWEDEN: Outside of Scottish curling, it’s been an intriguing season so far, perhaps most marked by the emergence of Team Hasselborg of Sweden.

Shooting past Team Sigfridsson (so long Sweden’s dominant rink, who haven’t had a bad half season themselves to be fair), Hasselborg have won the Stockholm Ladies Cup, reached the semi-finals of two Grand Slams, and won silver at Europeans in Braehead.

We’ve also seen the impressive return of Bingyu Wang of China, the 2009 world champion, while Team Homan have struggled to find the consistency of their steamroller-style start to 2015-16 – Grand Slam titles instead going to Teams Einarson, Flaxey and Sweeting.

On the men’s side, Teams Carruthers and Jacobs have looked the most impressive aside from Team Edin, while Team Gushue have performed admirably during skip Brad’s recuperation – and ‘Team Pants’ (Thomas Ulsrud’s delightfully wacky Norwegian rink) have been far from pants in coming second at the Baden Masters and Europeans, before winning the Qinghai China International men’s title this month.

***

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CHAMPIONS: Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken, Scottish Mixed Doubles winners (photo: facebook.com/TeamAitkenMouat)

MIX IT UP: Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat continue to make waves in the mixed doubles discipline, winning their fourth Scottish Mixed Doubles title to qualify for Worlds, while excelling on the continent.

They claimed the CCT Bern Mixed Doubles title, as well as coming in as runners-up at the CCT Austrian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup.

Judith and Lee McCleary were second at the Scottish Championships, and also won the Consolation Cup at the Bern Mixed Doubles, so proved they’re very capable of keeping Aitken and Mouat on their toes as Pyeongchang 2018 draws closer.

At the 2016 World Mixed Curling Championship (four players per team as opposed to two), Cameron Bryce (skip), Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson played brilliantly as they secured bronze medals for Scotland.

***

SUPER SILVER: Speaking of medals, the Scottish wheelchair curlers Aileen Neilson (skip), Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson and Angie Malone (alternate) won silver at the World Wheelchair-B Curling Championship.

In doing so, they also qualified for the 2017 World Wheelchair Curling Championship – and the 2018 Winter Olympics as Great Britain.

***

Curling in 2017 kicks off with the World Junior-B Championships in Sweden (January 3-9) and the Mercure Perth Masters (Jan 5-8). Enjoy!

Teams Brewster and Smith end 2016 on a high

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Dumfries Challenger Series champions Team Smith (photo: facebook.com/DumfriesCurling)

Teams Brewster and Smith finished the year as champions, winning titles at the Karuizawa International and Dumfries Challenger Series.

They weren’t the only ones to enjoy success, with Teams Fleming, Muirhead and Murdoch also enjoying success in China and Japan.

There was a strong showing from the Scottish rinks in Dumfries, too, while Team Whyte took the plaudits at the Lockerbie Junior International.

***

Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) and Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) ventured out to Japan to contest the Karuizawa International men’s title, which was won by Murdoch last season.

Brewster progressed straight to the semi-finals thanks to a W4 L0 round robin performance, having recorded victories against Teams Natsuizaka (5-3), Ogihara (6-4), SooHyuk Kim (8-5) and Takigahira (4-3 after an extra end).

Murdoch, though, had it a little tougher, as despite wins over Teams Komoda (10-2), Hirata (8-3) and Suzuki (6-2), a defeat to Team Morozumi (6-5 after extra end) placed them second in their pool and required them to play a quarter-final.

For that match they faced SooHyuk Kim, and threes in ends one and six propelled them to an 8-2 victory.

In the semi-finals, Brewster edged past Team Morris 7-6 (scoring two in ends one and four, and three in end six), while Murdoch won their rematch with Morozumi – three in end three and twos in ends five and six pointing the way to a 7-2 outcome.

The all-Scottish final was a tight affair, Brewster and Murdoch tied at 1-1 after four ends, before Brewster scored one in end five and Murdoch two in the sixth end.

Brewster blanked end seven, then made full use of hammer in the eighth by scoring two to win the match 4-3 and secure the title.

Skip Tom Brewster said: “We have had a great time here in Japan and the result just tops it off. The team has played great all week.

“Since the Europeans we have been working on a number of things and it’s great to see all that effort has paid off.”

In the women’s competition, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) emulated Brewster by proceeding straight to the semi-finals – beating Teams Ji Suk Kim (7-6), Matsumura (5-4 after extra end), Sigfridsson (9-3) and Fujisawa (9-2).

The last four threw up a Muirhead-Sigfridsson repeat, this time with a different outcome, as the Swedes scored two in the extra end to win it 7-5.

Muirhead still had the chance to finish third, though, and took it by defeating Team Sidorova 5-3, with a two in end seven and steal of one in end eight.

Team Un-Chi Gim claimed the women’s title by overcoming Sigfridsson 7-4.

***

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright), meanwhile, were in China for the inaugural Qinghai China International (‘Redmagic Cup’).

They got off to a losing start, beaten 6-5 by Team Kubeskova after an extra end, but recovered to defeat Team Kauste 10-6 and local favourites Team Wang (by a remarkable 11-10 scoreline).

But they were then beaten 10-7 by Team Brown of Canada, before a 7-5 victory over Team Witschonke had them on W3 L2.

That was improved with a 4-3 win versus Team Jentsch (stealing one in the extra end), but a 10-8 loss to Team Roth (after another extra end) pushed them into a tiebreaker for the playoffs.

There, two in end one, three in end six and a stolen two in end seven saw off Wang 8-2.

In the semi-finals they faced Roth of the USA, and frittered away a 4-3 lead after six ends to trail 6-4 after nine having given up consecutive steals – but a three in end 10 won it for the Scots 7-6, and booked a spot in the final.

Fleming had to settle for runners-up spot, though, as Brown grabbed four in end five and three in the seventh end as they won out 9-4.

Coming after a second-placed finish at the Red Deer Curling Classic at the end of last month, it’s been a very fruitful finale to the year for Fleming.

The men’s competition was won by Team Ulsrud of Norway, who beat Canadians Team Lyburn 8-5 in that final.

***

In Scotland, the Dumfries Challenger Series drew in teams from the home nation and across Europe.

Section A of the men’s competition was topped by Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon, Alasdair Schreiber), who took wins over Teams Thune (8-3), Haubjerg (7-1), Gallacher (8-3) and Jamieson (conceded) – while Thune also made the playoffs.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) edged fellow Scots Team Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, David Reid, Duncan Menzies) for top spot in Section B, Bryce winning the head-to-head 5-1 and also beating Teams Grzelka (7-1), Brunner (7-3) and Hamilton (6-0) – Brunner joined Bryce and Hardie in making the last eight.

And in Section C it was Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) who came out in first spot, with victories over Teams Fraser (6-3), Jungen (10-3), De Mollinedo (7-4) and Telfer (6-1) – Fraser and De Mollinedo also reaching the quarters.

The last eight matches saw wins for Bryce (7-3 versus Fraser), Hardie (5-3 over Thune), Smith (7-4 against Brunner) – and, pulling off a shock, the Spaniards De Mollinedo, four in end seven and two in end eight giving them an 8-4 triumph versus Mouat.

Come the semi-finals, Bryce scored four in end three and three in the sixth to outgun De Mollinedo 8-3, while Smith scored two in end one, stole in ends two and three, before adding more singles in ends five and six, then a two in the eighth as they saw off Hardie 8-4.

The final was a suitably close encounter, with the rinks exchanging singles throughout.

But it was Smith who ultimately took the match and the title, scoring ones in ends one and three, blanking end five, and adding ones in ends six and eight to win it 4-3.

Coach Viktor Kjall told British Curling: “Coming in as very heavy favourites for the weekend it was good that they executed their plans so well and got through the tournament undefeated.

“It’s been a terrific first half of the season. They have [made] a final at a Grand Slam and won two tour tournament victories – all this puts us in the top 15 in the world.

“Now we get a few days off over Christmas, then back to camp in Braehead just before New Year’s Eve, then we start the second half of the season with the Canadian Open in North Battleford (January 3-8).”

In the women’s section, Teams Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) and Mathis (Switzerland) secured direct progress to the semi-finals, Jackson beating Teams Lander (7-4), Hazel Smith (5-2), Gina Aitken (10-2) and Barbezat (6-4).

The quarter-finals were then contested between Teams Aitken, Barbezat, Gisler and Smith, with Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) and Barbezat making the semis, both by 6-5 scorelines and both stealing in the eighth end to clinch it.

Jackson won the dramatic last-four tie with Barbezat, stealing one in end eight to win 4-3, but Aitken could not make it an all-Scottish final, beaten 5-4 by Mathis after giving up a three in end six.

That final was also very tight, with Mathis taking a 3-0 lead after two ends but Jackson battling back with a steal of two in end seven for 6-6, only for the Swiss rink to take one in the eighth for the victory.

***

Finally, we come to the Lockerbie Junior International, a part of the Asham U21 Slam series.

Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean) were looking to take advantage of U21 Slam nemesis Team Bryce competing in Dumfries instead of Lockerbie, and they topped their section with four wins from four.

In the semi-finals they edged out Team McNay 5-4, scoring two in end eight, before facing Team Baird in the final.

Two in end two, three in end four and two in end six gave Whyte a 7-2 triumph.

Team Bremane of Latvia saw off all the Scottish opposition to take the women’s title, defeating Team McDonald 8-3 in the final.

Team Carson secured men’s third place ahead of McNay, while women’s third went to Team Farmer ahead of Team Keen.

European Championships round-up: Scotland women medal again!

muirhead-ecc2016-medals
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.

Scotland win bronze at World Mixed Championship

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Bronze medal winners (L-R): Sophie Jackson, Bobby Lammie, Katie Murray, Cameron Bryce (photo: worldcurling.org/wmxcc2016/teams)

Scotland’s young team only lost one match as they claimed bronze at the World Mixed Curling Championship in Kazan, Russia.

They were beaten in the semi-finals by eventual silver medallists Sweden, as the Russian hosts took gold, but recovered to take bronze ahead of Korea.

Elsewhere this weekend, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat finished as runners-up at the Austrian Mixed Doubles Cup, and more Scottish curlers competed at home, in Norway and in Canada.

***

There have been two World Mixed Curling Championships, and Cameron Bryce (skip), Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson have represented Scotland at both of them.

Last year in Bern, Switzerland, they exited the competition at the last 16 stage, but they surpassed that achievement by some distance in Kazan.

The Scots kicked off their group stage challenge with an 8-3 win over Italy, and followed that by beating Norway 8-1 and Japan 7-4.

Further victories against Romania (8-4) and Belarus (9-5, with a five in end two!) saw them ease into the knockout stages, and a sixth win from six was secured as they saw off New Zealand 7-2.

Ireland’s foursome finished the competition with a W2 L4 record (beating Brazil 13-4 and Slovakia 6-4), while Wales were W4 L3 for the event, narrowly missing a playoff/tiebreaker place despite defeating Croatia (7-6, after an extra end), Slovenia (8-1), the Netherlands (8-3) and Estonia (6-3).

England were even closer, wins against Brazil (12-1), Ireland (8-5) and Finland (6-4) earning them a tiebreaker against the Finns, only for their opponents to edge it 6-5 and make the playoffs themselves.

Scotland the last British side standing, they took on the USA in the round of 16, the stage at which they’d gone out to Switzerland last season.

No problems this time round, Bryce’s rink scoring three in end two and stealing one in end four for a 4-1 win.

To the quarter-finals then, and a big match with Canada, who like Scotland were yet to lose a game.

Scotland stole two in the first end, but Canada took singles in ends two and three, and the Scots were forced to one in end four for a 3-2 lead at halfway.

Canada took two in end five and they led 5-4 going down the eighth – but Scotland, crucially, held hammer. And they used it to maximum effect, as skip Bryce made a takeout to score two and win the match 6-5.

Sweden were their opponents in the last four, and they proved too much for Scotland to handle. Successive steals in the first three ends saw the Swedes 3-1 up at halfway, and they took two in end five and three in end seven to take the game 8-2 and make the final.

A tough result for Scotland to pick themselves up from, but they had to go again in the bronze medal match with Korea.

There they again found themselves 3-0 down after giving up a steal of one in end one and two in end two, but they fought back with singles in ends three and four.

A crucial steal of two in the fifth end put Scotland ahead for the first time in the game, a lead they carried into the eighth at 5-4.

Korea had hammer down the last, but Scotland had four shot stones ahead of opposing skip Lee Kibok’s final stone – a raise takeout attempt which only cleared one stone, giving the Scots a steal of three, an 8-4 victory and the bronze medals!

In the final, Sweden – runners-up in 2015, beaten by Norway – finished second again, Russia winning gold after a 5-4 extra-end victory.

Reflecting on his team’s bronze medals, Scottish skip Cameron Bryce said: “It’s always good to bounce back after a defeat in the morning. We wanted to make sure we went home to Scotland with a medal. We started off slow so we had to do it the difficult way and steal our way through.

“Bronze is good now, but we were really disappointed this morning. After a couple of days we’ll be really happy with our bronze.”

For photos from the event, check out the WCF Facebook album here.

***

Another Scottish success story came at the CCT Austrian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup in Kitzbühel, as Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat – who have both been selected in the British curling squad for the next Winter University Games – finished as runners-up.

The Scottish pair eased through the pool stages of the event, beating Zubercova/Gallo of Slovakia 16-3, Reitsma/Genner (Austria) 12-3 and Mayrhans/Kapp (Germany) 8-1.

In the first playoff round, they defeated Fischer/Roth (Austria) 9-3, with two in end three, four in end five and two in end six, to wrap up a semi-final spot.

There they scored twos in ends one and three, stole one in end four and added another three in end seven to overcome Kauste/Rantamaki of Finland 8-3 and make the final.

The final proved a step too far for Aitken/Mouat, up against the Hungarian pair of Ildiko Szekeres and Gyeorgy Nagy.

It was finely poised after the fourth end with the Scots leading 4-3 courtesy of twos in ends two and four, but the Hungarians scored three in end five then took single steals in ends six, seven and eight for a 9-4 victory.

Nevertheless, a positive result for Aitken and Mouat, who continue their mixed doubles progress with the CCT Mixed Doubles Cup Geising next weekend.

***

There were more up-and-coming Scottish teams in action this weekend in events at home and abroad.

The second Asham Under-14 Slam of the season, after the event in Forfar earlier this month, took place in Stranraer.

The four sections were topped by Teams Stewart, Ryder, Stranraer 1 and Stranraer 2.

And so in the high road semi-finals, Stranraer 1 defeated Ryder 4-1 and Stranraer 2 beat Stewart 7-2.

That set up an all-Stranraer final, and it was Stranraer 2 (Robyn Munro, Robbie Lyon, Finlay Aldred, Iona Irving) who triumphed over Stranraer 1 (Matthew McCrone, Kaleb Johnstone, Kerr Lyon, Thomas Hay), scoring three in end one and adding singles in ends three and four to clinch a 5-2 victory, while Ryder defeated Stewart 4-1 for third spot.

In the low road final, it was Forfar winners Team Gallacher (Hamish Gallacher, Scott Hyslop, Jack Strawhorn, Jack Carrick) who came out on top, beating Team Gow 6-1.

Further afield, meanwhile, Teams Baird (David Baird, Fraser Kingan, Robin McCall, Gavin Barr) and Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) took part in the EJCT Oslo event in Norway.

Baird started with a 7-1 victory over Team Kringlebotrn, and then saw off Team Studer of Switzerland 9-4.

Two 6-5 defeats to Norwegian rinks followed, to Teams Foss (after an extra end) and Myran, but they then overcame Team Bremanis of Latvia 7-2 for a spot in the quarter-finals.

There their progress ended, Team Nygren of Sweden stealing three in end eight to beat the Scots 8-5.

In the girls’ section of the junior event, Aitken lost 8-5 to Norwegians Team Forbregd but were 8-5 winners themselves in their next match, against Team Bremane of Latvia.

However, two losses against Swedish rinks, Teams Sundberg (4-3) and Westman (6-2), saw them exit on a W1 L3 record.

The boys’ winner at the event were Team Muskatewitz of Germany, beating Myran 6-4 in the final, and on the girls’ side it was Sundberg who triumphed in an all-Swedish final, 8-3 versus Westman.

***

Finally, there were – as ever – an abundance of events taking place in Canada over the weekend, ahead of the first Grand Slam of the season this week.

Team Brewster, having just won the European Playdowns to represent Scotland in Braehead, took part in the Medicine Hat Charity Classic in Alberta.

Brewster’s rink – Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan – couldn’t carry over their form from Perth though, losing to Team Scharback (4-2) and Team Stroh (5-4) to drop to the C-Road.

There they finally picked up a win, beating Team Kleibrink 6-2, then added another – defeating Scharback 9-0, capped by a steal of five in end five – but a 6-1 loss to Team Appelman ended their run a match short of the playoffs.

Team Smith (Hannah Smith, Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie, Claire Hamilton) also made the trip to Canada, competing in the Canad Inns Women’s Classic in Manitoba alongside some stellar names – Teams Homan, Jones, Sigfridsson and Tirinzoni to name but four.

Their first match was a daunting one, against Stockholm Ladies Cup winners and European Championships qualifiers Team Hasselborg, and the Swedes won 9-1.

Another defeat followed, 7-3 against Team Middaugh, and a 5-2 loss versus Team Barbezat of Switzerland on the C-Road saw their participation finished.

The playoffs for both the Medicine Hat Charity Classic (follow here) and Canad Inns Women’s Classic (here) are being contested later today.

As for the Challenge De Curling De Gatineau in Quebec, it was Team Epping (with ‘super spare’ Craig Savill) who triumphed, overcoming Team Dunstone 4-3 in the final.

One last thing! Back in Europe, Team Edin claimed yet another title in what has been an incredibly fast start to the season for the Swedes, beating Team Pfister 7-5 in the Champery Masters final.

The tournament was televised through World Curling TV, another step forward in their attempts to expand the sport’s reach.